JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Several sector leaders have hailed the late former Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke, for his unyielding commitment to the development of education.
  • Sir Howard, who died on Friday, July 11, at the age of 98, served as Minister of Education between 1974 and1976, and also taught at various educational institutions for 23 years.
  • The former Governor-General was recognized at the 10thAnniversary of the launch of the campaign with the presentation of the Eat Jamaican Campaign 10th Anniversary Gold Medal.

Several sector leaders have hailed the late former Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke, for his unyielding commitment to the development of education, and the wider society.

Sir Howard, who died on Friday, July 11, at the age of 98, served as Minister of Education between 1974 and1976, and also taught at various educational institutions for 23 years, before he entered representational politics, and the insurance industry.

Paying tribute to the former Head of State, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) highlights that during his time as Minister, the Community Colleges were established to provide Jamaicans with tertiary training options, and the secondary school system was upgraded.

The JTA says Sir Howard was a life member and voted in its election up to last year.

“He felt that there should be a close relationship between the schools and the community that they serve, and he was very active in the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), and mobilized the farmers in Portland to assist each other in partner work, where they met on each other’s farm to do work. He was also actively involved in community life when he worked in schools,” recalls Secretary General of the JTA, Dr. Adolph Cameron, in an interview with JIS News.

He says Sir Howard’s passion for education was intense to the point where “when we met with him in his capacity as Governor-General, he always made it clear that he was a teacher first and foremost.”

The former Governor-General was a graduate of the then Mico Teachers’ College, and was at one time Headmaster at the Portland based Bell Castle All Age School. He also taught at the Montego Bay Boys’ School, and lectured at Mico.

Sir Howard was President of the Jamaica Union of Teachers in 1964, when five teachers’ unions came together to form a single entity to represent the interests of teachers and education.  He served the St. Andrew Teachers’ Association, and founded the East Portland Teachers’ Association, now the East Portland District Association.

“As Governor-General, he proclaimed the Tuesday in Education Week in May as Read Across Jamaica Day,” Dr. Cameron points out.

The Secretary General describes the passing of Sir Howard as sad. “It leaves a gap in our lives, but I believe we have every reason to celebrate his life. It was a full life of commitment to this country. He touched various aspects of Jamaican life, but his consummate interest was education, and he never lost touch with the Jamaica Teachers’ Association,” Dr. Cameron says.

Executive Director of the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ),  Donna Powell-Wilson, says its system “owes its foundation to the tireless commitment and forward thinking of Sir Howard Cooke.”

“Jamaicans in every parish can benefit from the educational offerings of a community college,” she tells JIS News.

The community colleges emerged from a 1973 report that the former Governor-General submitted to the Government on post ‘O’ Level Education. The submission was accepted, leading to the birth of Excelsior Community College and Knox Community College in 1974. A second submission was made in 1975 for the establishment of the Montego Bay Community and the Brown’s Town Community Colleges.

The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) says Sir Howard’s contribution to education and religion was “significant.”

“He was a member of the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and provided significant leadership within that denomination,” notes General Secretary of the JCC, the Reverend Gary Harriot.

“Sir Howard Cooke was also very influential in bringing the other faiths together, so the inter-faith council owes much gratitude to him. We hail his memory and his service to Jamaica, and trust that all of us would take a leaf out of his book, and other Jamaicans who have served with commitment and faithfulness,” he tells JIS News.

Meanwhile, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS),  Senator Norman Grant, says a recommendation will be sent to the Board of the JAS and the National Denbigh Show Committee that “our late Governor-General, for his sterling work to the agricultural sector, be inducted in the JAS Hall of Fame and also be recognized with the Denbigh Lifetime Achievement Award during the upcoming Denbigh Show.”

“This gesture of appreciation dims in comparison to his sterling contribution to the JAS and its activities. For all the 15 years as Governor-General, he never missed any staging of the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show. He remained very committed to the Denbigh product and experience,” Senator Grant tells JIS News.

The President points out that the ‘Eat What We Grow…Grow What We Eat’ campaign, launched in 2003 under his leadership, was not only endorsed by Sir Howard, but was supported by him in subsequent years.

For his dedication to the JAS and the farmers, his commitment to the campaign and as a public sign of recognition and appreciation for his invaluable support, the former Governor-General was recognized at the 10thAnniversary of the launch of the campaign with the presentation of the Eat Jamaican Campaign 10th Anniversary Gold Medal.

“He was a patron of the JAS during his tenure, counsel to the JAS and a great citizen of Jamaica. The farmers and the JAS regret his passing and offer our condolences to his beloved wife, Lady Cooke, and his family,” Senator Grant tells JIS News.