Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column published 6th Feb 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
|Ambassador Aloun Assamba|
This year’s Lecture in the Cobb series during the UWI Research Days held earlier this month, was presented by Ambassador Aloun Assamba, attorney-at-law, CEO of COK-Sodality Credit Union, former High Commissioner, former government Minister and former Member of Parliament.
The enlightening lecture series was created and sponsored by Ambassadors Sue and Charles Cobb, for in-depth exploration of issues that affect Jamaica’s development. US Ambassador Luis Moreno disclosed at the event, that Ambassador Sue Cobb is so highly respected by the US State Department that an award was created in her name to recognize outstanding US Ambassadors worldwide. During her tour of duty here in Jamaica, Ambassador Cobb founded Jamaica’s Women’s Leadership Initiative and with her family, sponsors the scholarship for rural students.
Ambassador Assamba’s topic was “Education and Healthcare: The Equitable Imperative for Jamaica”. She contrasted the challenges faced by Jamaica’s lower income earners to those who could afford private medical assistance. For example, a poor person may have to wait all day, just to secure an appointment to see a specialist. In education, she noted that the removal of auxiliary fees had negatively affected the running of schools in which under-privileged children have unequal access to some areas of learning. She said children in deep rural areas have the additional challenge of transportation, resulting in poor attendance.
Similarly, in the health system she said that the abolition of user fees is hobbling our medical services. She referred to an incident where an expatriate stayed in the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital for six weeks and on being discharged, asked for his bill. He was told that the hospital had no facility to produce one.
Ambassador Assamba declared that she was not speaking from any political platform. “Politicians like to talk about free things,” she said, “but I have been there and done that and I have moved on.” She says that the reinstatement of realistic user fees will level the playing field and called for the data to be gathered via surveys and focus groups to bring a change in the planning for health and education.