KINGSTON, Jamaica – Earl Jarrett, General Manager of the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) has supported the Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites’ recent move to reduce study leave privileges and implement a freeze on hiring for the upcoming school year, noting that the move was necessary if the country is to achieve the targets outlined in its Agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“I’m a little surprised that not one soul in Jamaica stood up to support the Education Minister and what he is trying to do,” Mr. Jarrett said.
The JN General Manager was speaking to more than 300 principals, vice principals, members and chairs of school boards, as well as senior educators at an Educational Leadership Symposium organised by the Mutual Building Societies Foundation (MBSF), at the Kuntsford Court Hotel, on Ruthven Road, on Friday (July 19).
“Our discussion at this Symposium comes at a time when Jamaica has signed the IMF Agreement, which calls for significant changes in our country and for us to be successful in that Agreement, it means that we will have to address the strained relationship that exists between our Minister of Education and the Jamaica Teachers Association and I’m pleased that process has begun,” Mr. Jarrett said.
He explained that under Article 39 of the IMF Agreement that in order for the country to achieve an efficient education system, it must implement structured attrition, such as a freeze on hiring in overstaffed schools; mandatory retirement at the normal retirement age and reformation of the current study leave policy to take account of the new hiring policy.
“This is a national agreement and everybody must share the burden. This is not the Ministry of Education jumping on people,” he said. And, he noted that if various groups, including teachers, did not support and ensure that the corrective actions are taken to achieve the IMF targets then the future of the country would be at risk.
“What Victoria Mutual and Jamaica National, in establishing the Mutual Building Societies Foundation was to look at the larger picture, and ‘find a way’ in which we can grow the real Jamaica,” he said, pointing out that both mutual societies had to forgo $2 billion under the National Debt Exchange programme earlier this year to assist the Government with financing its obligations.
Using his organisation’s partnership with VMBS through the MBSF as an example, Mr. Jarrett noted that the two rival institutions were able to develop an unorthodox partnership, which has resulted in tremendous achievements for six rural, non-traditional high schools under a comprehensive school transformation programme, which the mutual societies called the Centres of Excellence initiative.
“We came together five years ago to address a particular problem. We had to try different things we had to set aside differences, we had to work in the best interest of Jamaica,” he said noting that the schools had been able to double the numbers of students sitting and passing examinations over the five-year period.
“So let us work with our Minister of Education. His interest is our interest,” he told the educators, “And, let us work with the Ministry of Finance to ensure that we achieve the (IMF) targets,” he said.
In response to the Mr. Jarrett’s statements, Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, who addressed the educators at the symposium, emphasised that Article 39 of the IMF Agreement was not written by his Ministry and said the Article had been communicated fulsomely to teachers.
“What we must now do is face our reality and ensure that we effect what we must with the greatest care for everyone’s self interest, but with the principle and recognition that the education system does not exist for any sector, but for the children of Jamaica,” the Minister said.
The Educational Leadership Symposium was organised to communicate the achievements of the $100 million Centres of Excellence programme created by the mutual societies and share the lessons learnt to drive change management in schools and influence greater performance outcomes. The programme, which is the only known initiative of its kind to be designed and implemented by private sector in Jamaica, will wrap up this year.
A report on the programme’s workings is to be prepared for the Ministry of Education for possible implementation throughout the wider school system.