Pardon my cliché: the island in the sun gets its piece of the pie

When I heard the ‘spokesperson’ for some organization utter that he wanted Jamaica to move toward the first world, I shuddered. I remembered quickly a comment made to me a few days ago about how people here are lapsing increasingly into the language of clichés. Jamaica is not immune from the toxins that float through the world. In our sometimes misguided rush to seem like we have the chutzpah to at least talk our way up there with the best, I wish that we’d take just a deep breath before we go utterly headlong where we shouldn’t tread.cliche-text-bubbles

I have to read and listen more carefully in coming weeks, because I think I am missing gems flying around out there in terms of clichés clucked out of thin air. But, here are a few from the past week alone, just from casual listening.

Back to the negotiating table“–(uttered in the context of a recent strike by oil tanker drivers)…except, in Jamaica, it may mean going TO have negotiations, after blustering and huffing in irate comments that have not real been discussions.

Incentivize“– (during Parliamentary Committee on Banking). I did not hear the name of the person speaking, but it was a private sector representative of a bank. I’d be very happy to get much lower fees for all the electronic transactions that the banks are making it easier for me to do.

It’s a game of two halves“–too many football coaches in Jamaica. The essence of the game is TWO halves (what are two QUARTERS?). Yes, I understand that it’s meant to highlight a contrast in how the match went, but it makes my teeth grate.

Teams are going to win; teams are going to lose“–Coach of Wolmers basketball team. This so knocked me over, I couldn’t get up for an hour.

It’s just a matter of going out and executing…”–Jamaica’s cricket team captain. Who will be in the cross hairs? Lest, he speak before the firing squad approaches…

Stakeholders“–Too many people wanting to sound like bureaucrats. When I heard the president of schools association use it last night in a discussion about sex videos by teenagers, I wondered if he really thought this made his comments more substantial. The use of the term has gotten out of hand. I dread the day when my 10 year-old comes and refers to me and her mother as ‘stakeholders’ in her life.

Democratization of information“–Dr. Karen Carpenter (clinical sexologist…not to be confused with psychologist), on Impact, discussion sex activity by teenagers. An academic has written that ‘There is more power than peril in democratization of information’. Maybe, but it’s a perilous phrase, and one whose misuse may well be just around the corner, once word gets out about these words.

Give me the other side: a view of public expression

A basic problem facing Jamaica is that major issues are not discussed from anything like the same view-point. Last night, I watched a very informative discussion on TVJ’s All Angles, about recent revelations on video of teenagers engaging in sexual activity (sometimes, with adults). The studio audience included a head boy and head girl from two well-known and prestigious Kingston schools, plus a student from the University of the West Indies, plus some adults with expertise in the field of child counselling, etc. What struck me was how this discussion went on with much intelligence and understanding of what issues teens may be facing, yet had no representative of the ‘target’ group (I’m struggling for a word).

Those who do not have the behavioural problem being discussed can air their views, but they may well be talking past those who appear to have a problem. I yearned to hear from a young girl or boy who had engaged in the sexual behaviour. Clearly, when society is looking at what it has called deviant behaviour–and I use the term with no moral judgment, but just to position the argument–it can be difficult to get the deviant people to express themselves in a way that clearly exposes themselves. Much deviant behaviour is done out of sight, usually in the hope that it will not be exposed. Many people, however, get to hear or see the behaviour because attention is often sought, as part of the ‘fun’. But, we still need to try.

In our televisual age, we expect to see everything. I would be content, however, if I could hear (or even have someone read a testimonial) from those being discussed. The speculation about the whys and hows would then have more validity. The head boy telling us that he tries to be a role model is laudable, but clearly others have found and followed role models who are not ‘head boy material’. Do those people know or care about the so-called good role models?

We’ve put out many ideas and images that suggest that certain adult lifestyles can be part of ‘living the life’, but for many children it’s not clear that much of society disapproves. (I listen to the radio, and even on stations which state that they are about ‘consciousness’ and ‘good attitude’ put out music with messages about youths engaging in sexual activity.) So, when certain acts or words are part of popular culture, and easily accessible, how will young people know that society wants a line drawn that excludes children from copying such behaviour? Talking about the need for better parenting is all well and good, but it’s not going to happen because a panel of well-educated, articulate, and (let’s say) well-adjusted persons tell us that it’s needed. If some people are doing it because they feel it is a road to something worthwhile, I’d like to hear that. If parents are procuring their children in sexual activity to put money on the table, there may be embarrassment of shame involved in sharing that information, but we need to know those circumstances. It’s not about trying to justify, but to better understand.

I think it will be hard to get the target group to stand up or sit down and talk with the same freedom, not least because they have to believe that exposure will not lead to total condemnation. If they enjoy and value what they are doing, we really need to understand from them what is driving them toward what the rest of us think is the wrong direction. Second- or third-hand views don’t do that.

Bully beef: heavy-handedness, Jamaican-style

The past few days have brought up instances of something that seems common when dealing with social problems in Jamaica. Let’s call it the ‘big stick’ approach. Whatever the transgression, the most extreme solution gets preference.

I addressed the way that illegal street vendors were treated–their stalls were broken down.

Yesterday, I noted a recurrent discussion, about lateness at school; it surfaced some months ago with some schools in Kingston. Common solution: lock out the students. The National Parent-Teachers’ Association of Jamaica takes issue with this practice. Education Minister, Rev. Ronald Thwaites, has also called for schools to stop locking out students. Why cannot it be made mandatory that schools not do this? CamperdownB20130916NG

What do the schools expect when children are then left to fend for themselves for the duration of the school day? Let’s think. They get up to…mischief. (A flurry of sex videos made people shudder when seeing some of the mischief—made easier when kids are locked out of school.) They become prey to others who need some young bodies for tasks (these need not all be bad, but we know that a lot of sinister things can be done). They may not be reachable by their parents (not everyone has a cell phone): normally, issues at school can be addressed by trying to contact parents; parents can raise issues with schools that affect their children. Educational opportunity is lost.

Travel is not simple in Jamaica, and it’s hard for children, who do not have special transport to/from school. They generate lower fares and can often be left behind by some public transporters in favour of adult passengers. Children do not have the means to control all of their movements. I just met some parents bringing children to school late; in every case, it was the parents’ fault. Should children suffer for the fault of their adult caregivers?

Other than locking students out, does it take a rocket scientist to come up with other solutions that would still provide a ‘safe environment’ and ensure that chances to learn are not lost completely?

Is it too difficult to let late students enter late, join their next class, record the lateness on their official school record, and let that count against the student in final assessments? Any mitigating circumstances can be noted, and need to be attested by a 3rd party, but would not expunge the late record. Admittedly, students who are habitually late tend to have other academic negatives on their record and this may compound that, but it can be part of a ‘warning system’ about students’ vulnerabilities. Yes, it will take time and people to address the problems, and parents, teachers and students will need to talk about what is going wrong.

If I arrive late for a doctor’s appointment, would it be reasonable to lock me out for the day? If the doctor arrives late for an appointment, should he/she be locked out and not be able to perform duties?

Yes, timeliness in important in our society. However, the cost of it should be proportionate to what is being lost by lateness. If I’m late for a flight, I miss it. I can try to get the next flight, and that may be anything from a few hours to a few days. It’s costly to change tickets and costly in terms of what I lose by being late. I will try not to be late, but sometimes I cannot control the flow of events.

But, guess, what? Just slamming the door and turning people away is easy. Lazy, did you say?

Note, too, that this is another instance of how adults want to treat children in a less tolerant way than they would treat other adults. Are teachers who are late for school also locked out? Do employers routinely lock out employees who are late for work? Replace them, maybe, in time; sanction them in some other way, too, is the norm.

Discipline is learning to do the right thing without being told. It is not about being punished.

Do as I say not as I do: how Jamaica suffers from lack of stick-to-it-ness

Jamaica doesn’t do ‘law and order’ too well. I wrote yesterday about the heavy handed approach of Kingston’s municipal government to roadside vendors. My reaction was to a brutal response to law-breaking, not condoning law-breaking. KSAC said it had tried over several years to get vendors to move and it had not work. That does not justify breaking up the people’s means of a livelihood; other options exist.

We know that law-breaking has a negative effect on some of those who experience it. Yesterday, we heard about reports that a jet ski killed a tourist swimming in Negril. Last fall, the Ministry of Tourism imposed a short-term ban on importing jet skis, after a series of incidents on the north coast.SONY DSC The Minister talked about a sector “rife with indiscipline”. The government also stated it would impose a “Clamp down on all illegal commercial operators of Jet Skis in all areas.” This was the government approach–a clampdown…after years of lax enforcement. For a few weeks, we read reports of jet skis being seized. Announced…but apparently NOT ENFORCED is part of the mantra of Jamaican life.

Therein, lies the root of many of Jamaica’s problems: we are not accustomed to real and consistent enforcement. People, therefore, don’t expect to be penalized for long, if at all, for not abiding by rules or laws.

That said, we see plenty of evidence that Jamaicans will follow rules. For all the carnage on Jamaican roads, we usually see drivers sticking to some basic laws. They stop at red lights. I am amazed that bus lanes in Kingston remain free of cars almost all the time–I’ve no idea what the restrictions are because there are no signs to show that, only the road markings. But, dutifully, drivers avoid the bus lanes, even on Sundays and late at night, when traffic is very light. It cannot be the risk of being caught that is working: there are no surveillance cameras, or police posted along the way. Jamaicans get it!

But–to flog a dead horse–Jamaicans don’t get it in other simple road uses. Yesterday, I watched a man on a high-powered motorbike speeding up the hills with a young boy (about 7 years old) clinging on as a passenger. Neither wore a helmet.

So, a major problem that policy makers need to address is why and how the disconnection works between laws being in place and people abiding by them.

Initial reports indicate that the operator of the jet ski (not identified) fled the scene after the swimmer was struck, and we await a full police report. Lots of valid questions will be asked: Why swimmers are not in areas segregated from motorized water crafts? The envrionmental arguments will come out again about the oil discharge. The topic of regulating the sector will be aired, again. People will wonder what legal actions may follow this latest incident. Job opportunities will again be discussed. And so on.

We know that initial reactions will involve trying to control damage to the image of tourism in Jamaica. But, can we be confident about meaningful action that fits the fine words that have been uttered? History tells us no.

Jamaican law makers often confuse utterance with governance and act as if it’s enough to say that something will be done, rather than ensuring that things are done. Sooncomeism, again?

Beaten down? Here, have some more licks.

I read in yesterday’s papers how the Kingston municipal government had gone about restoring ‘law and order’ in the city–by breaking up illegal sidewalk vendor stalls over the past few days. Reactions to this have been mixed: some see it as good that ‘anarchy’ and ‘lawlessness’ be nipped in the bud; others understand the plight of many Jamaicans, faced with few opportunities for work, to try to make a living. I saw the heavy hand of government at work. Destroying the structures solves the problem in a very direct and brutal way, for sure. It may mean that the people ‘learn their lessons’, but it also likely puts them in a state similar to bankruptcy. Remember, this is the informal economy at work. Many of the vendors are not well-educated. Many are older people. Many are doing their selling to support a household. They are less of a burden on the state, and they are service and goods providers. Yes, we want to see the rule of law prevail, but does it have to be with a boot in the teeth and a rod on the back–to use a metaphor. We seem to like solutions that beat messages into people.

I know it’s an easy allusion, but I believe it applies: we are the products of slavery and we act towards each other as brutal masters did towards their slaves. Disobey and you will be whipped or beaten. “Beat him!” “You want a beating?” “I’m going to beat you!” come out of people’s mouths with such regularity that you must believe it’s the solution of choice.

I know that talking and negotiating take time, and may lead to no results, but I also know that beating often doesn’t do much but inflict pain and bad memory.

I can’t attest to the reported offensive comments of officials (or police, in other instances), but again, they seem consistent with what is often heard when ‘authority’ is imposing itself.

Educated people will say and understand that ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law, but I wonder how many of these vendors (or similar) really understand what they are supposed to do, and have the means to make it happen. I cannot believe that they resist because they want to lose their chances to make some money. I cannot believe that they resist because they want to be beaten. I can understand that they do not understand. Or, that they have also had to live with years of broken promises, in the sense that people say things and do nothing. So, it’s a shock when someone says “Move!” and then they come and move you.

I’m in favour of orderliness. But, I also understand that there are not random forces at work in what people are doing for economic survival. A country with 16 percent unemployment has to do better than break down the livelihood of people trying to work. Where’s the job that will replace the shattered stall?

Jamaica, land we love

Jamaica is known as the land of many things. In our most romantic moments, we talk about the land of wood and water. If I were to be in a cynical mood–and it does take me, sometimes–I might say that it’s the land of ‘would’ and ‘wait here’, as in ‘Wait here, would you, I’ll go check in the back…” Living in Kingston, I also know it as the land of wood clogging up the water in the gullies.

We love studies, especially expensive ones done by foreign consultants who are very expensive. We love them even more when they tell us things that locals have known for years, but did not have written for them in glossy, bound reports. Last week, Jamaica started down the road of another of its characteristics–the land of nine-day wonders. People got excited and upset about the correlations in a study of crime and education. Criminals went to schools (admittedly, many of them did badly there), so schools must be remedied. I bet all of them went to the bathroom too, so I hope no one will come to our houses and rip out our toilets. Hot on its heels, I hear that a number of other studies are likely to be launched in recent weeks.

One study of a stratified sample of prison inmates shows that the last meal most (67 percent) of them ate was a beef patty. Many others (25 percent) had eaten chicken foot soup; while the rest had eaten a variety of other things. The correlation coefficient was over 95 percent and the margin of error was just 2 percent–whatever all of that means. The government will now be looking to deal with the issue of what breeds criminals by regulating what patty shops sell.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA These will be ‘refurbished’ so that only soy or callaloo patties are sold, knowing that the consumption of red meat is related to an upsuge of anger (not forgetting its harmful health effects in terms of heart disease). So, in one bite the government will eradicate crime and improve national health. Chicken patties will soon be for the chopping block, too, as they have been suspected of being behind the spread of salmonella outbreaks. Three cheers for the government!

Jamaica has a place named the ‘Land of look behind‘. This could easily have become the nation’s capital, not least because it fits well the people’s real nature of being ‘difficult and inhospitable’. That is a finding in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, so it’s almost as good as if it were from Wikipedia. I side with that interpretation, because it helps me understand why it is that some commentators marvel at what Jamaicans do to make it through each day.

Jamaicans are nothing if not creative about the obvious. Yesterday’s papers included a few articles about extortion. The kind of thing that was featured was how people are offering ‘parking’ near the US Embassy in Kingston for the many applicants who go there trying to get visas. Jamaica’s not like the USA or UK, where parking illegally will get your car clamped; it may be towed, occasionally. But, people like to park cars where they think it’s convenient–usually, just for them, despite obvious inconvenience to others. In rural areas, parking on blind corners, or the crest of a hill, are common tricks. In town, parking on sidewalks or driveways, or alleys is common. Good parking means good blocking of someone else, and if it means double parking then that’s double fun.

I digress. Some youths take people’s money, park their cars, sometimes wash them for another fee, make sure the cars are safe for the persons while they spend a few hours with Auntie Samantha hoping to get a pass to the Promised Land. But, this piece of entrepreneurship is scorned. Jamaicans call it ‘hustling’ or ‘exaction’. It seems, in good look-behind fashion, that we’d prefer if the young people sat on street corners, smoking and drinking and just being good and idle–having been prepared for that by schools (we know). We’ve 40 percent unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds, so let’s get that figure up above 50 percent. We can do it!

Of course, we don’t have the snazzy parking lots that festoon many American cities, where people can park their cars, have them broken into, be mugged or molested, or engage in illicit information exchanges under cover of darkness. We have that to look forward to. Of course, because the US Embassy offers no parking and nowhere in the area was designated as public parking for the many applicants, we’d prefer it if people drove around for many minutes, searching for parking, missing their appoitments, getting visa rejections, and having to go through the process again after the lapse of some months. Progress is only hard if you try to make it.

Jamaica is also the land of “In God we trust”. It must be so. Last week, we read about police ‘death squads’. Yesterday, I read that 60 percent of those arrested for corruption are police officers. How else could I go forward with the exhortation I saw in the press to “Help Cops End Extortion“? Look, if the love of statistical analysis has taught us nothing, we should be able to understand the spiral unlogic of asking us to help the police-crooks to be uncrooked. As many Jamaicans suspect, the ‘brains’ behind many schemes happen to be people who are supposed to be upholders of the law. Would you sit down with a crocodile and share a plate of grilled ribs?

Stones set to mark parking spots, for which payment will be 'requested' (courtesy of The Gleaner)
Stones set to mark parking spots, for which payment will be ‘requested’ (courtesy of The Gleaner)

The good, the bad, and the ugly (January 26)

Good

The Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation has donated the proceeds from the Shaggy and Friends charity concert on January 4, totalling J$70 million (about US$700,000), to the Bustamante Hospital for Children. (Press reports indicate that private donors included DJ Squeeze of Linkup Radio, who gave J$1 million, and athlete Yohan Blake, who also pledged J$1 million. Other donations included US$20,500 from Food For the Poor as well as J$389,200 via the Digicel Text line. Corporate donations included J$3.75 Million from SportsMax and Jamaica National Building Society, which handed over US$8,110 after a pledge to donate US$1 from the proceeds of each money transfer from the United States to Jamaica between January 2 to 15.)

Bad

Press commentary about a report on Education and Crime was shoddy and unfair in referring to ‘prison schools’ and suggesting a causal relationship between school attended and likelihood of imprisonment. Government reaction, notably by the Minister of Education, to criticisms of the report were also casual. Not surprisingly, many teachers have reacted negatively to the report and commentaries.

Ugly

An 18 year-old black South African skier, Sive Speelman, Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 2.33.17 AMfrom a poor, rural area in the Eastern Cape where it snows, has qualified for the coming winter Olympics in slalom. But…the South Africa’s national Olympic committee has decided that Speelman isn’t good enough, so denied him the chance to compete. This move has been criticized in South Africa and abroad. Speelman is outside the top 2000 but amassed enough points to gain eligibility to compete in the Olympics. In the association’s words, it wants “to ensure participation…is of the highest quality…unfortunately will not be delivering (sic) him to the Winter Olympic Games.”

Touching our sensibilities

The image that we have of any place and its people is built up from the little pieces that we see of them over time. Sometimes, we get only one view, and our image is cemented.

When I move around Jamaica, I try to see as much as I can, knowing that I’ve only glimpsed parts of the whole. With no clear conclusion to be drawn, it’s sometimes all I can do to share the images. I take a lot of pictures of every day activities to help my memory. Sometimes, I cannot record visual images and have to rely on my memory of sounds, tastes, and incidents. Sharing that is sometimes all I can do.

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The boy who did not cry wolf. A few days ago, my daughter was at the National Aquatic Centre in Kingston for one of her regular practice sessions. A boy came into the office, where I happened to be standing. He was holding his goggles and trying to say something, but it was muffled by his sobbing. His eyes were filled with tears. I asked him what was wrong. “I have a cramp, sir,” he told me, “But coach did not believe me. he said I was a liar. I’m not lying, sir.” A lady in the office asked him for which club he swam, and he told her. I took a look at his leg. It was stiff, as if the hamstring had pulled. As I tried to move the leg, the boy screeched in pain. I eased the leg a little to see if the knee was damaged. He yelled. I sat him down and told him to relax. The lady asked the boy for a parent’s number. He gave his mother’s work number, then made a call. “No, Mummy. I’m not lying!” the boy said, through muffled tears. The lady in the office took the phone and spoke to the boy’s mother. She tried to explain what had happened and that the boy was in pain and distress. From what I heard, the mother was not having any of that. However, the office lady said the boy would be in the office for the next hour or so, till he was collected. The office lady then went to speak to the boy’s coach. Suffice to say, she went back the office. The coach never moved. When my daughter had finished her session, I went to the office to see if the boy was still there. He had just left, I was told. Make of all that what you will.

Directions, anyone? People have a lot of fun mocking the way that Jamaicans give directions.

It’s the result of living in a rural society that often has things that don’t change too fast. I was just on the phone with a man with whom I’m due to partner tomorrow in a golf tournament. We’ve never met, and were planning to hit some balls together today. However, he decided to get a jump-start and make the trip today, instead of tomorrow morning. I told him I was not sure about where I needed to go, but would look it up on the Internet. “It’s easy man. Once you go into the town, you’re going to go past a gas station. Look for the fruit vendor, then turn right,” he told me. “Ask anyone, you can’t get lost.” That was a shorter version, but you get the gist. Let’s hope the vendor is not having his day at home, tomorrow.

Home delivery. A friend was very excited when he found out that I really enjoy Jamaican country food–yam, bananas, dumplings, callaloo, salt mackerel, etc. “Next time, my house keeper prepares something, I’ll call you,” he promised. The next day, he sent me a picture with the message “Yours is waiting”. I replied that I would pick mine up later, and if I did not have it for lunch then the next day’s breakfast was set. I set off for my school pickup; he lives adjacent to the school. When I near to his house, I saw his son on the road with a cell phone. He hailed me. I got to the house and my friend asked if I liked curry. I told him yes. He was waiting for some to be delivered and I could grab a bite, too. Meantime, my salt mackerel ‘breakfast’ was packed for me. “What?” I heard my friend shout. “Where? You’re joking!” He then told me that the food delivery man had gotten a puncture and his son was trying to locate where he was–hence, the boy walking with the phone. We figured out where the delivery man was; it was not far. I suggested, I take my friend to find his food, and we jumped in my car. We drove about half a mile and there was the delivery man–so near, but yet so far–on the roadside, with his bike parked and his food box ready for more deliveries. But, no chance of doing that till he got help.MobyDickG20100615CH We collected our food and paid the guy. I have to say the curry goat was a knockout, with some really nice roti. It’s from a restaurant called Moby Dick, in downtown Kingston, which I understand is famous, and been around since 1900.

Teach the children well?

A firestorm has erupted in Jamaica this week over the relationship between schools and crime. Let’s put it simply. A study found a correlation between schools attended and the placement of persons in prisons. The conclusion that has been focused on is that remedial measures need to be taken at certain schools to prevent them from being the ‘source’ of criminals.

Many people understand that correlation is not causation. I grow tomatoes in a pot and they grow well. If I get better pots that does not give me better tomatoes. The reasons (causes) for (of) good growth are elements like soil, water, sun, seed quality, and other relevant factors, not the pots.

The discussion going on reminds me of a joke about a man who used to drink fortified spirits a lot. He tried rum and water; got drunk. He decided to try gin and water; he still got drunk. He moved to whisky and water; drunk again. Lastly, he tried vodka and water; blind drunk, as a skunk. He decided he’d better stop drinking water. Makes sense, right? It was the only common thing. However, we know or understand that it’s the alcohol that is working to distort the man’s behaviour, not the water.

Social deviance is complicated to understand. Most people would not put schools as the causes of bad behaviour, even though the environment in some schools may well support bad behaviour. The people working in schools are usually trying hard to ensure that behaviour is good, if only for their own survival and sanity. In what way would it serve teachers and schools administrators to ‘produce’ deviants and criminals? Alright, in a Dickensian setting, we can think of a ‘school for scoundrels’, but Fagin was not a school teacher in the normal sense.

I heard the Minister of Education, Reverend Thwaites, discussing during a post-Cabinet briefing yesterday, the report and reactions to it. He seemed to have no regard for those who concerns about the implicit absurdity of a causal link between schools and crime–above all. I stress that last part because the government’s actions only make sense if they believe that causal link.

Some, like me, would think that the socio-economic environment from which the persons came would and should be a major place to see causes. Likewise, their family or community backgrounds. If you live and breathe crime at home, what school can do to counter may be very little. Isn’t that why people talk about ‘overachieving’ students? They have done well at school despite a host of adverse non-scholastic influences. That’s why the young man who got a Rhodes Scholarship, after graduating from Vauxhall High School (one of the schools highlighted in the report in question), received a lot of attention. It’s not that any school may not be able to educate someone well. Some schools have a hard time doing the job of education because of things not to do with the school and its teachers. 

We also should not forget what the Jamaican educational system supports by having a filtering system for secondary schools. In fact, the study might have led to a better conclusion if Jamaica did not filter. Instead, children with low academic scores are pushed away from so-called ‘better’ schools. Without a group of consultants, we should be able to hypotesize about the results that systems like that would produce. If I keep feeding one person poor nutrition and another good nutrition, how would I expect them to grow?

In this discussion, I think the print media has played a very shoddy role. It was irresponsible for the Gleaner to run a story headlined ‘Prison schools’. It used terms such as ‘churning out’ or ‘produced the most inmates’. Terms like that suggest a converyor belt process, like making sausages. The sample data do not support such conclusions. To me, the press portrayal was so wrong that I was surprised to not see a retraction or apology.

I have no problem identifying (as Educate Jamaica does) secondary schools for underperformance in terms of what is produced in terms of educated individuals, something that should be at the core of their existence (or mandate). But, I would also want to understand well what the schools were having to work with in terms of ‘inputs’ (primary school students). A lot of shaping has already happened by the time children move from primary to secondary schools. To the extent that children end up badly educated, we know that our societies will give them fewer chances to succeed. They are not well equipped to compete for jobs. Hence, they are more likely to struggle to rely on ‘regular’ work to make a living. If we had a society that somehow guaranteed everyone a ‘living wage’, home and good health, many people would not feel pressured in finding ways to get on with life. (A few countries have tried something along those lines.)

But, I am not prepared to saddle schools to carry all the ills I see in my society. More so, when the schools are funded by public resources, because they may well be suffering and reflecting the financial choices imposed on a country, to the detriment of other objectives.

We may find that almost all prison inmates were born in public hospitals. Should we start remedying public hospitals because of the high incidence of criminals that are associated with them?

Follow the money!

Lack of finances stifling football‘ screamed a headline in today’s Gleaner. President of a parish (St.Elizabeth) football association cited lack of corporate support as the main reason for the parish’s failure to get a team into the national premier league. This coming from an area that routinely has one of the best schools football talents, St. Elizabeth Technical High School.

Last week, I wrote about corporate sponsorship being the lifeblood.

When I see what goes on normally in Jamaica, it’s clear that ‘the money’ usually flows to the winners. So, those who are clearly amongst our best have a very good chance of getting financial help. But, the report above shows that this is not always the case, even for a sport for which we would normally expect support and interest to be sky-high. What is wrong?

Last weekend, news flooded in that the Jamaican 2-man bobsled team had qualified for the coming winter Olympics, ending a 12 year absence since 2002.dogecoin-is-sending-the-jamaican-bobsled-team-to-the-winter-olympics Lack of finance had hampered their efforts in the past, and was likely to hamper them after qualification. Then a strange thing happened. Within hours, I was seeing messages about raising funds–particularly, through crowd-funding. Fans of the sport got busy fast. Soon, the federation in the USA launched an appeal, accepting major credit cards, but also using Crowdtilt, Dogecoin (virtual currency) and Indiegogo. The team needed US$80,000 (to cover travel and equipment costs), and by Tuesday it had raised US$115,000. The government has since stepped in to cover travel.

The bobsledders are a special story in Jamaica, with the images of the Cool Runnings movie capturing in 1993 the thrill of the first entrants, in 1988. To revive that image was perhaps easier than getting the dry dirt of St. Elizabeth wet.

But, the supporters did something, fast and effective. They found a way to get to the money, rather than waiting for the money to get to them.

Jamaica is strapped for money. Think like this has to happen and with it a realisation that the old ways don’t work. Does it take the diaspora to be involved to get the party started? Maybe, but it’s about a mindset that is not constrained to tried and tested, and positioning that is outward-looking.

Jamaica needs a lot of that.