President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), Winston Smith, has called on the business sector to invest in the infrastructure of the island’s schools, instead of making one-off contributions as publicity ploys.
In emphasising that the funds provided by the Government to the Education and Youth Ministry in its annual budget is not enough to meet the needs of the schools, Smith said additional funds and other forms of support for the institutions often have to be sourced elsewhere.
It is against that background why he said members of the business sector should make education a high priority in light of the push for further economic growth nationally.
“We have to stimulate investment, we have to stimulate growth in our economy, but how can we have growth in an economy when our people are not educated, and the educated ones are leaving the shores because they are frustrated with the system?” questioned Smith.
He was the guest speaker at a recent Lions Club of Kingston virtual meeting, where an update on the state of schools since the face-to-face reopening was given.
“We have to stop and think,” Smith told the nation’s business community.
“Make education the number one priority, and when I say make it the priority, I am calling on all the well-thinking businessmen and women of Jamaica to come on board in a fulsome way – not a half-hearted, peace-meal, ‘Oh, when I want a little publicity and I want my company to be shown on television, I give a school a single laptop’.
“… And we had a big commercial and picture-taking, for which if you were to pay for the ad(vertisement), you couldn’t afford it. So because you want some free publicity, you give a school a single little laptop that don’t even have a decent memory space, but those who are watching on TV and see all the glamour of it, don’t know that,” the JTA president stated.
He said it is time for businesses to “stop using education as a marketing tool to promote their businesses, but see it as a tool for helping the schools to grow.”
One way of assisting schools to accomplish this goal is by businesses adopting an educational institution, Smith proposed.
“Come on board and adopt a school, and I am not talking about (paying) salary – (I am talking about) going into some schools and establish a science lab, (or) fix it up.
“You may not be able to do it alone, but use your connections. As business people, you have connections. There are many persons who will say, ‘Alright, I cannot give you the money to build the lab, but I have machinery, and I could afford you to use those machines for a while,” he suggested.
In giving another example, the JTA president said some schools need to be paved, and there are business people who own construction and asphalt companies that can assist in those efforts.
“(It is time to) Remove the derelict buildings and replace them with quality first world standard facilities,” argued Smith.
He expressed confidence that in the long-term, entities which decide to help more schools will get returns on their investments by having a qualified workforce in the future.