Letters to the Editor

Greater access to education made possible under the JLP

Friday, September 14, 2018

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Dear Editor,

I was reading an article recently in which a gentleman recounted his verbal exchange with his taxi driver who had some recommendations to the prime minister. It was indeed excellent.

It is good to know that Jamaicans are taking an interest in the governance of the country and are keenly observing the performance of the political parties.

It is also a mark of this gentleman's own forward thinking that he should take the time to make this dialogue public so that the prime minister himself should be made aware of what the people think and what they would like to see happen in their country.

I myself fully endorse all the recommendations advanced by the taxi driver, but I just want to point out that it is under the Jamaica Labour Party that Jamaican children up to the secondary level have had the greatest, most unbiased access to education.

You will recall that when the Jamaica Labour Party made this pronouncement detractors insisted it would not work and was not in the best interest of Jamaican children and their parents who were without means.

Still the policy went ahead, and schools were advised that no child should be turned away on the basis that he/she cannot afford tuition fees. Schools received greater allocation paid directly to them by the Education Ministry to compensate for the shortfall that would have resulted from the no-tuition policy.

Regrettably, schools introduced new fees under alternative names, such as ancillary and other fees. Still the prime minister and education minister continue to insist that no student should be denied their education by virtue of their inability to pay any fee, irrespective of what name it goes by.

Together with its free tuition policy the Government has ensured that under the Programme of Advancement Though Health and Education (PATH), students now access meals at school five days a week.

The prime minister has articulated that his vision is for free education up to the tertiary level. Of course, this will only be made possible once the economy expands to facilitate this in a sustainable way.

Effectively, education up to the secondary level is free for all Jamaican children.

On the matter of improving the conditions of clinics and health centres this is not a point that any reasonable person can dispute. I am, however, aware that the Government, in its thrust to create an inclusive health care system that does not deny care to those who need it, has also instituted a no-user-fee policy for public/general patients — that is those without health insurance. Indeed, more needs to be done to increase the efficiency and responsiveness of health centres. This, of course, is also dependent on economic conditions.

Finally, on the matter of putting prisoners to work, quite frankly I have always wondered why this hasn't already happened. I am, however, mindful of the related risks and concerns as well as the capacity of law enforcement personnel to effectively manage such an undertaking.

All in all, as a citizen, I welcome this type of dialogue, and I am certain the prime minister is also taking note.

The letter writer observes that there is work to be done in changing the views held by some persons. This is true, and I believe the prime minister himself also recognises this. Still he also notes that the prime minister is doing a great deal to improve the local infrastructure and general landscape of Jamaica, making it into a more modern society, and that it is in the interest of all Jamaicans that Prime Minister Andrew Holness succeeds in leading the country in the direction of prosperity. I agree most assuredly with his closing comment: “Prime Minister Andrew Holness's success is Jamaica's success.”

Jonah Grant

jonahrodgrant@gmail.com

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