Monday, January 28, 2013

‘It is cool to be bright’

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Observer column | 28 January 2013

TARRANT High School is a microcosm of today’s Jamaica. Here we have a dedicated principal, Garfield Higgins, who has convinced his students that ‘it is cool to be bright’, losing the support of some of his teachers because he is a stickler for excellence.
HIGGINS… in 10 years, my objective is to have your perception so altered that you will choose Tarrant as your first choice
We had read about Mr Higgins in a feature written last February by Observer reporter Denise Dennis who noted that the school, which had introduced a sixth form just five years before, boasted 100 per cent CAPE passes in communication studies, food and nutrition, management of business, as well as art and design.
The school’s inspiring principal has his ‘Vision 2022’ well in place: “In 10 years, my objective is to have your perception so altered that you will choose Tarrant as your first choice,” he told Dennis. “And how do we achieve this? By increasing the output of the quality of passes that we get at the school.”
The report continued: “He added that he was not in the “business of bellyaching” that they do not get the best students. ‘We don’t get the best students, so what? We have to [make] do with what we get, and we can’t sit down and twiddle our thumbs and not do what we need to do, which is to educate people’s children. I am firm on that,’ Higgins said.”
Higgins may be a dream to his students and their parents, but it seems he is a nightmare for some teachers, thank God, in the minority, as he told a news reporter last week. Those teachers have a problem with attendance and punctuality, and do not want to stop their selling activities at the school!
Indeed, they had a demonstration against Mr Higgins. One day last week, some refused to take classes for several hours, although they were present at the school. One wonders if they will be paid for that day out of the country’s meagre resources.
We hope that the Jamaica Teachers’ Association and the Ministry of Education will be of one clear voice in their expectations of our teachers. The National Education Association in the US has been emphasising accountability and productivity in the profession, acknowledging that even as its mandate is to protect the rights of its members, uppermost must be the national imperative for quality education delivered by quality teachers.
The situation at Tarrant High is replicated across the land, where valiant Jamaicans who are trying to serve with excellence are reviled and sometimes ostracised. I have dubbed this ‘a conspiracy of mediocrity’ — lazy, corrupt managers and workers preserving their comfort zone by sidelining intelligent, enthusiastic producers. Excellence and accountability are anathema to the corruption that is practised in high and low places.
In that brave production by National Integrity Action (NIA), The Cost of Corruption broadcast on television recently, we saw the disgrace of Operation Pride, where millions of dollars have disappeared.
We saw the obstacles put in the way of the Financial Services Commission as they tried to bring Olint to heel. Justice was served eventually on Olint’s David Smith in the US, while we dragged our feet despite evidence that the majority of those burned by the scheme were Jamaicans.
The authorities in the US are trying to locate and return monies to US based investors — the Jamaicans have had to kiss theirs goodbye. NIA head Professor Trevor Munroe suggested that because both political parties had received big campaign bucks from Olint, there was no hurry to bring Smith to justice here.
The documentary also featured criminologist Professor Anthony Harriott explaining how ‘dons’ were allowed to embed themselves in communities. As we rightly show concern for the lives lost in the Tivoli operation to capture Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, we should take note of Professor Harriott’s observations.
He said that weeks before the operation, the community had been highly mobilised. He referred to a demonstration against the authorities by about 800 women wearing white, some of them bearing placards announcing ‘We will die for Dudus’. He reminded us of attacks against the State, with the murder of police officers and the burning of police stations. He said approximately 400 persons were involved in the armed defence of Tivoli. After the operation he said, “Almost 100 weapons were found including 45 rifles, grenades — pretty sophisticated stuff.”
This is what faced our security forces when they advanced on the community. No wonder the poor public defender Earl Witter is ill. How do you gather facts for a situation like this, where guilty and innocent alike were caught up in so much illegal firepower?
And so, as gangs still continue to fight for a foothold in our country, fuelled by the millions they have scammed from terrorised US retirees, we have to thank the US for pushing us to enact laws to fight this plague. We beg them to help us expedite the anti-gang legislation that keeps moving to the back of the line.
We also dearly hope that come March of this year, political campaign financing legislation will be passed, as it has already been adopted by Parliament. If that well researched reform drafted by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica had been on the law books, political parties would not have been able to accept donations from an organisation such as Olint. Thus, David Smith would not have been cosseted for such an extended period, and many families would have been spared from his wily ways.
We see that the scrap metal trade will resume today, even as our utility companies quake at the prospect. No one is trying to deprive folks of an honest living, and so we hope that the promises of stricter monitoring will be kept.
On behalf of Principal Higgins and all hard-working and truly patriotic Jamaicans, let us expose and address this pervasive conspiracy of mediocrity and corruption. And let us jettison anyone who would stand in the way of solid governance, the only way to give our economy a fair chance at recovery.

Read more:

  • Mocho a day ago
    Jean, you are onto something. I am not able to understand why they fight so hard for the status quo or to be maintain mediocrity. All I can say, more power to Garfield Higgins and to encourage him to continue to "block out the noise" - that is all it is. The picture of those kids in the computer lab look like they want to learn so why should anyone stand in thier way?

  • Joycelin Clarke a day ago
    I urge you Mr Higgins to continue to sell your vision. Not all will come on board but as you set sail those who see the light and are willing come on board because they don't want to be left behind. Those who are still in resistance mode will be left behind as the ship leaves the harbour.
    Leadership is not an easy task but worth all the effort you can give to it. Some teachers are too comfortable and will do anything to resist postive change but change is the only thing that is constant, so continue what you are doing. I have been there and understand the situation but maintaining the status quo which is not good is only a recipe for disaster. Keep the faith Mr Higgins; soon some of your opponents will laud you your effort.

  • Guest 21 hours ago
    Your column as always is a great informative piece that enlightened my spirit like the beautiful snow outside. I am not familiar with the other developments of the school as mentioned in one of the comments but I applaud the Principal's efforts to encourage teachers to attach performance (implied) to levels of compensation. The private sector does have periodic Performance Appraisals to which compensations are tied.
  • tyroneosborne a day ago
    Any effort to assist children to be their best should always be encouraged. In a few instances being a brilliant student will attract evil enemies even within your own family. Children needs all the support and the necessary tools to make learning fun and easier. Jamaica's future is tied to the education of our children. There are some vices in Jamaica that is well know to high up political figures,we need not even say them since the public knows then too well !

    • NikkiNikki tyroneosborne a day ago
      It is obvious that Jamaicans are concerned for the welfare of its children but trust me when i write ' all that glitters is not gold. Has anyone asked them self why Mr. Higgins was fired by the Schools Board. It can't simply be that he is being ousted because he is a nightmare for some teachers. I put it to you that Mr. Higgins is "bellyaching", squealing as loudly as he possible can to drum up support from parents, and unsuspecting Jamaicans who are not in the know.
      Mrs. Jean Lowrie - Chin please note according to Mr. Higgins the school is doing exceptionally well. He points to the Sixth Form programme started five years earlier with its 100% passes and the best CSEC grades two years ago. All this was achieved with the teachers who have issues of "punctuality, attendance and are non performers."

No comments:

Post a Comment