Outlines new direction for education in Jamaica
The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has developed what it says are far reaching proposals to address Jamaica’s land and housing problems while charting a new direction for education in the country.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding made the announcement during contribution to the 2023-2024 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (March 14).
Golding indicated that the National Housing Trust (NHT) will play a crucial role in the PNP’s land development strategy.
He told members of parliament (MPs) that “the next PNP Government will complete any outstanding infrastructure and land titling in those communities where the work was started but has been left incomplete for many years and we will adopt a policy of proactively bring infrastructure and land titling services to informal settlements with reasonable and affordable terms of cost reimbursement and backed up by support from state agencies such as the NHT to provide financing so that the people can create immense wealth for themselves by investing in their homes”.
“The basic development model is proven and sound, and will be buttressed by robust, transparent and accountable governance.”
Far-reaching legislative proposals
He advised that Parliament has also now developed a far-reaching set of legislative proposals that will, for the first time, comprehensively tackle the intractable issues of land titling for the people.
Golding reiterated his party’s commitment to the creation of legislation which will better enable the development of a land titling system that will be accessible and beneficial to all Jamaicans.
To that end, the Opposition suggests the following:
• A comprehensive review and overhaul of existing legislation to make land ownership more affordable and accessible.
• The period of ownership by possession for Crown land should be changed to a shorter, less oppressive period. Working alongside municipal corporations and relevant governmental agencies to undertake incremental infrastructural development and land titling in support of vulnerable residents, where informal settlements already exist.
• All of this will be guided by consultation and engagement with citizens. This relates directly to the 700,000 persons living in informal settlements in a country our size. All of us have to face the fact that there is a deep problem.
“Fixing these problems – sustainably, equitably, transparently….. not in a piecemeal fashion, but in creative, practical ways over the shortest possible time, that’s what we’re about,” the PNP President emphasised, declaring, “we must provide all our people with pathways to a decent quality of life and productive citizenship”.
He made the point that land tenure, infrastructure and housing must be transformed if the country is to achieve a cohesive and sustainable society that can underpin a strong and productive economy saying the Jamaican people deserve no less.
Educations and training
He said the education system needs a new direction, saying “time come”, while making reference to the Patterson and Davies reports, which looked at the systemic changes needed in the education system.
Golding declared his party’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Patterson Report, articulating three additional programmes that the PNP wants to see put in place.
• Early Childhood Development will be the priority of the New Direction for Education. This will be supported by a comprehensive policy to address the broader needs of children from birth onwards.
• A system of early childhood development gets all our children off to the right start. The New Direction will hone in on basic schools that are struggling to survive. Many are closing under the weight of high operating costs. We will make the investments required to raise the standard of our early childhood education system, and provide support so that teachers at basic schools can earn a reasonable salary. Time come to repair the foundation of our education system and set it in the right direction, a New Direction.
• The New Direction also focuses on transforming the first eleven years of every Jamaican child’s life. Jamaica must achieve the outcome that all our children are able to read, write and do basic arithmetic by Grade 4.
The Opposition Leader said particular attention and emphasis will be placed on under-achieving primary schools to raise standards across the board noting “several of the school based social development interventions that they abandoned will be re-evaluated, updated and returned to schools across the island”.
He proposed that the Government remove the taxes from laptops and tablets for students and teachers, as has been done for racehorses.
At the secondary level, the PNP president promised that his party will provide the support to education that is necessary to mitigate the effects of the negative social issues that are impacting students – teenage pregnancy, weak family structures, substance abuse, anger management and aggression. Tertiary education, Golding explained must be accessible to those who need it most, so that they can positively transform their prospects in life.
He reminded fellow MPs of his promised last year if his party formed the next government it would cap the student loan borrower’s loan payments at a manageable percentage of their income, so that the State, not the student, bears the risk of the economy generating adequate employment opportunities in periods of unemployment. In addition, the next PNP government will eliminate the requirement of a guarantor for a student to access a student loan.