Let's celebrate but evaluate

Wesley Barrett

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

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Somehow I prefer to hear us speak of Jamaica's 50th Independence anniversary rather than Jamaica's 50th birthday. The former sounds more appropriate. However, whether we use the term anniversary or birthday, there is good reason to celebrate the Independence Day event on the exact date or one sufficiently close to it. Really, it is not the date per se that is celebrated but the significance of the event. The day we choose, however, should allow for proper planning and organising to ensure a meaningful experience. In this regard, if schools can plan a meaningful celebration on August 6, then they should be encouraged to do so. If they can't, then they should make plans for another date. What's important is that the celebration should be as reflective and measured as possible.

In some areas of education, theatre, health, culture, sport, social legislation, trade unionism and tourism, we have much to be proud of and to celebrate. Even the English would agree. However, it would have been good if from the start of the year more of our achievements were highlighted and we were all united around them. It would have helped greatly also if there was more collaborative planning over the last two years leading up to this year's celebrations. In evaluating the latter we can conclude that the amount of controversy that has dogged the implementation activities, particularly over the last few months, is most unfortunate. In going forward, might we not be ever mindful to celebrate with sobriety, frugality, self-assurance and togetherness?

While we celebrate our achievements, it is absolutely imperative that we look holistically on all aspects of the areas we extol in order to evaluate them for strengths and weaknesses. Engaging only in revelry will blind us to the weak or dark areas that are already damaging our image and reputation. Some are lethal, such as our penchant for wastefulness, procrastination and empty talk. Our literacy profile has improved over time, but it is still cone-like with a tiny top, slightly larger middle and a broad bottom incapable of taking us to Vision 2030. Many of our classrooms are not student-friendly and are technology deficient. Student indiscipline is rife and rising. Are many school compounds not increasingly becoming combat zones? There is much to be desired in many of the lyrics of popular music despite some improvement efforts. If we take each area one by one we can identify aspects that are wholly shameful and need immediate transformation.


Who should lead in the evaluation process? It is doubtful that the Government or Opposition would gain widespread acceptance in a leadership role, for each attempt would be viewed by the other party as self-serving and distrustful. This is a damning indictment of a political system that has now become almost ultra-polarised. If attempts to lead are made by the private sector, known for loud utterances about school achievements but lacking in economic growth achievement we could have a negative reaction. The attempted leadership role in tax reform discussions by the PSOJ comes to mind. To many it would be problematic for the media to lead since most media houses have been fingered for political bias. And of course, some people are likely to object to watchdog and advocacy groups which are rapidly increasing. Many people deem the tone and language of the public statements by the groups somewhat combative and unbalanced at times. They probably don't know that.

Are there other potential leadership candidates? Known for nation-building accomplishments, the church groups should have sprung to mind but it depends on who leads them. In the recent past, the top leadership of both the longer established denominations and the newer ones, regrettably, have been considered aligned politically. As with some professional associations, the situation might have been more perception than reality. However, more recently these religious groupings have regained some standing regarding their non-alignment and therefore could receive some positive response.

As a group, the service clubs seemed to have kept above the political fray and have remained pretty much politically untainted, particularly at the local level where it counts most in the evaluation activity. They have been assiduously building a track record of performance and civic-mindedness. Any forum organised by them to receive evaluative comments is likely to be embraced. They would follow through gleefully with action. Would the church and civic-oriented groups be willing to unite to lead the evaluation?

At this historic juncture we should do a summing up nationally of our achievements, under-achievements, non-achievements and leadership profile. In going forward we must ensure ongoing evaluation with timely follow-up action. Inspirational and futuristic leadership, social capital formation and more innovative actions are aspects for serious attention in the next decade or two.

Happy Independence anniversary!





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