For just over half an hour last Saturday night, nostalgic reminiscences of his last year in high school took precedence over conversations relating to politics and the economy as former Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding reflected on how that period of his life shaped his mind and prepared him and some of his peers for the turbulent world we now live in.
He completed high school at Jamaica College (JC) after spending five years at St. George’s College.
In his keynote address at the Jamaica College Old Boys’ Association of Canada’s (JCOBAC) 26th annual fundraising gala in Brampton, Golding said the year he spent at JC was quite fulfilling for several reasons.
“When I entered JC in sixth form, it was challenging because I was entering this noble institution where I was among classmates who had had five years of immersion in the tradition and culture of the school,” said the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member. “You weren’t quite sure if you were going to fit into the scheme of things or whether those things were going to fit you.
“I also felt that experience entering JC at that particular time stimulating because I came upon an intellectual ferment that I had not been exposed to anywhere before. I found myself at a place where the debates were of a different kind compared to St. George’s which had a strong reputation for structured debates. At JC, the debates were called reasoning and you weren’t selected to be a debater. Instead, you found yourself drawn into discussion not about what happened at CHAMPS (high school track & field championship) or what the prospects for Manning Cup (annual soccer contest among high schools in Kingston, St. Andrew & St. Catherine parishes) were going to be. We were talking heavy stuff and getting into serious discussions about the society in which we were, what was happening in the wider world and the connection between the two.”
The year 1963 that Golding enrolled at JC was quite historic and eventful.
Cuba was enduring the recent United States embargo, Nelson Mandela arrived on Robben Island, the Organization of African Unity was formed, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington, Marcus Garvey’s body was returned to Jamaica and a group of Rastafarians were wrongfully accused of launching a Holy Thursday rampage that left eight people, including two police officers, dead.
“At JC, you were obliged to get involved in these discussions,” said Golding. “You were obliged to form a position on issues of equality, justice, persecution, liberation and racism. During our lunch break and after school, we didn’t loaf around. We gathered under the pyrus tree and we got into these discussions. These were not brainwashing sessions because in those discussions, we took different positions…We would disagree sometimes vociferously, but what we agreed on was that those things mattered to us and we had to make them our business. This social consciousness arousing and this shaping of the mind to the issues was something to me that was unexpected because JC was one of the most traditional schools.”
Golding said Jamaica’s independence attained a year before he went to JC was also a hot topic.
“That had a particular impact on my generation,” he said. “We felt we were called by circumstances and history to be agents of change and therefore we were using those high school years to prepare ourselves for the change that we felt we were committed to make.”
Golding singled out some of the JC teachers who impacted his life. They include former vice-principal and sports administrator Jimmy Carnegie who died seven years ago.
“He not only taught me history, but also how to think and analyze and how to make sure that the conclusion that I arrived at was in alignment with the facts,” said Golding. “This is something that I have always remembered and treasured.”
Since its formation, the JCOBAC has donated almost $320,000. The funds have been used to purchase laptop computers, smart boards and other educational material and support athletic programs at the all-boys school that has an enrolment of about 1,800.
With a cash-strapped government and ailing economy, Golding said the success of Jamaica’s schools, including JC is largely dependent on partnerships involving alumni groups and other stakeholders.
“While JC can’t be a laboratory that is isolated or insulated from the community in which it exists and the social environment in which it prevails, it must seek to become an oasis in a desert of mediocrity and under-performance,” he noted. “It must seek to be a centre of excellence. In order to do this, JC has to be able to go on more that the strength of its past. It has to be able to find and plug into the strength of its present. There is no way this can be done without the support of people like you.
“After debt service, the largest chunk of budgetary expenditure in Jamaica goes to education. In Canada, the federal and provincial governments spend about Can$10,000 yearly on a high school student while in Jamaica where we are prioritising education, we are spending roughly Can$1,300. Therefore JC, like all the other schools, finds itself swimming against the current and the fact that we are making up ground is due in measure to resources mobilized by alumni organizations in Canada. Every dollar that you raise and contribute is well spent and every measure of support that you give is a building block for the restoration of JC’s glory and prowess. JC played a critical role in making us who we are and what we are. Let us make sure that future generations are also beneficiaries of that good fortune and great legacy. We must keep the fire burning.”
As part of the celebration, JC alumni Dr. Anthony Smart and Philip Mascoll were recognized for their contributions to the organization and excellence in their respective fields.
A former chief of dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery at Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, Smart is a surgeon at York County Hospital in Newmarket and a clinical instructor in the University of Toronto’s department of oral and maxillofacial surgery.
A Toronto Star reporter for 27 years before retiring in 2008, Mascoll is an active member of the People’s National Party, Black Action Defence Committee and JCOBAC.
The Canadian alumni group, which plans to raise Can$1 million in the next decade, will honour the memory of its late president Dr. Claude ‘Teece’ Davis with a bursary to be awarded annually. He succumbed to cancer three years ago.
The former Tropicana Community Services Organization president and board member led the Jamaica School’s soccer team that toured Haiti and Puerto Rico in 1962, captained his school’s cricket side and was a member of the country’s school cricket teams that competed against Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados in 1960 and 1961.
Davis taught briefly at his alma mater before pursuing post-secondary studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) where he attained a doctorate in Chemistry and a diploma in Management Studies. He also lectured at UWI before coming to Canada to take up a post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Calgary and was a visiting professor in Environmental Management at UWI’s Centre for Environment & Development and a part-time lecturer at the University of Toronto where, in 2001, he was appointed a member of the Board of Governors. He served three three-year terms and was also the chair of the U of T Affairs Board from 2006-2009.
Established in 1789 by Barbadian Charles Drax, JC has produced 17 Rhodes Scholars, including late Premier Norman Manley and his son, the late Michael Manley, who was Jamaica’s fourth Prime Minister and ex-West Indies cricket captain Jimmy Adams.
The school is Jamaica’s third oldest behind Wolmer’s and Manning, established in 1729 and 1738, respectively.