Likening Jamaica’s education system to apartheid, Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism & Entertainment Damion Crawford has challenged nationals in the Diaspora to lead the charge for the implementation of a singular vision for educating the country’s citizens.
In the keynote address at the Jamaica Canadian Association (JCA) gala last Saturday night to celebrate the organization and country’s 52nd independence anniversary, Crawford said education apartheid starts as early as the primary school level where the playing field is unequal.
“There are classes with over 50 children and one teacher competing for the same space as a students in a class of about 20 who have access to more than one teacher, private classes and modern learning tools, including computers,” said Crawford who has Bachelor and Master’s degrees in tourism management and is a former university lecturer. “There are some schools where students are expected to fail…Sometimes when you don’t know that better exist, you will not demand it or desire it because in your own mind you are at the pinnacle of where you could be.
“The change that we desire can only come from educating our people, especially since the new world has no place for the uneducated. If Jamaica is to truly not just move forward, but be what we are supposed to be, then we must achieve the basic things. Many of our people who have been oppressed because they are not aware of better are not acknowledging the oppression. It’s those of you who have been exposed that have a responsibility to lobby for them.”
Crawford acknowledged the enormous financial contributions that alumni are making to their alma maters in Jamaica and encouraged them to go a step further.
“While you remember your school, you should also remember the schools around your school because if they send crap children in, they can only put crap children out,” he added. “You have to remember the school that feeds your school.”
To mark Jamaica’s independence from Britain on August 1962, a group of nationals organized a celebration and established the JCA a few weeks later. Two founding executive members – Roy Williams who was the first JCA president and Bromley Armstrong who was unable to attend the event – were inducted into the organization’s 50-Year club.
Also inducted were former presidents Mel Thompson, Karl Fuller and Miah Bailey; Byron Carter, Beryl Nugent, Pam Powell, Alton Telfer, sisters Bernice and Daphne Bailey, husband and wife Gifford and Raphaelita Walker and Amy Nelson who turns 92 next month.
Mary Barnswell, Ena Harrison and Bruce MacDonald were recognized for 25 years of service to the organization while Dr. Sylvanus Thompson was honoured with the Outstanding Achievement Award. He was recently appointed the secretary of the International Federation of Environmental Health and a member of the Humber River Hospital Family Health board.
“This award means a lot,” said Thompson who joined the JCA a decade ago and was the chair of the committee that organized last Saturday’s gala. “I have received numerous awards, but to be recognized by your peers is extra special.”
A Toronto Public Health associate director, Thompson has almost three decades of environmental health management experience. He played a key role in the implementation of the Toronto Food Inspection and Disclosure System – DineSafe – that posts inspection results for Toronto eateries online and in their front windows. The program was recognized with the Samuel J. Crumbine Award in Ohio in June, 2011.
Prior to migrating to Canada, Thompson was the Western Regional Health Authority veterinary public health coordinator responsible for food safety. He graduated from Clarendon College, the West Indies School of Public Health, Ryerson University, the University of California Berkeley, the University of Guelph and York University’s Schulich School of Business.
Noeline John, a JCA employment counsellor for the last 14 years, was the recipient of the Outstanding Employee Award; former youth committee chair and Saturday morning tutor Dwaine Osbourne was presented with the President’s Award; educator Zenover Brown was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Share and Toronto Police writer/photographer Ron Fanfair was recognized with the Community Service Award.
Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow joined York West Member of Provincial Parliament Mario Sergio and Member of Parliament Judy Sgro at the celebration.
“I don’t know where our community would be in many times of crisis without the JCA,” said Sgro. “You are always there to make sure that there is a common voice and that whatever is needed is done.”
To observe the York West federal riding association centenary this year, 100 commemorative medals were commissioned and are being presented to individuals, groups and companies in the riding.
The JCA was presented with a medal for 50 years of community service.
The organization’s new president Barry Coke and his predecessor Audrey Campbell accepted the award.
“We must continue telling the JCA story and increasing our visibility in the community,” said Coke. “Achieving financial self-sufficiency, increasing membership, especially among the young and middle-aged and enhancing membership benefits must also be at the top of the list as we move forward as an organization.
“When I imagine the JCA, I envision an organization which is respected in society for fostering harmonious and good relationships, one that’s a voice of justice and advocacy for youths and one that also provides support for seniors and opportunities for entrepreneurship.”
The gala marked the last official event for high commissioner Sheila Sealy Monteith who returns to Jamaica later this month.
“The JCA has special meaning for all of us because of its history and its contributions to the community and continued relevance,” she noted. “One of the proudest moments of my tenure was the visit made by the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica (Stephen Harper and Portia Simpson-Miller) to the JCA. Indeed, it was one of the highlights of the Jamaica 50th celebration and I firmly believe that the significance of that event went beyond having two heads of government gracing our community. You were recognized and celebrated the way you deserved to be for the great contributions which you have made to the community right in your own house.”