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The Partnership Formed Between Jamaica and the Diaspora Continues

Written by Leo Gilling

Over the past two years, the Jamaica Diaspora Education Task Force (JDETF) has sought to make a difference to the education system in Jamaica.  Many Diaspora members have come together to create initiatives and interventions for the children of Jamaica, based on assessed needs.

The first initiative was a fact finding mission to Jamaica in February 2014 to engage the relevant stakeholders in education in the country.

The partnership formed between Jamaica and the Diaspora continues and during the weekend of October 30 to November 2, 2015 the partners converged on South Florida for a critical planning meeting, as part of their preparation for the second Biennial Advancement of Education Summit 2016, to be held in Jamaica in March 2016.

Participants in the planning meetings included: from Jamaica – the Jamaica Teachers Association, Mico University College, Browns Town Community College, the Early Childhood Commission, and from the USA: Loma Linda University, Union of Jamaican Alumni Associations (UJA), Mayor of the City of Lauderdale Lakes, JAMPACT, Jamaican Consulate General Miami,  the Broward County Commissioner and a plethora of educators across the USA.

The three days of meetings included the Friday session where 18 members met at the Food For The Poor facility in Coconut Creek, and brainstormed on the overall agenda for the 2016 Summit.  Saturday’s meeting was opened to the general public and included a question and answer session on plans for the Summit.  Dr. Grace McLean, Chief Education Officer at the Ministry of Education represented the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, Minister of Education, remotely. Dr. McLean briefly presented on the status of education in Jamaica and answered questions remotely.

The planning continued on Sunday November 2, at St. Gregory’s Church hall in the City of Plantation.  Plans for execution of a middle managers workshop, expansion of the ExSeed programme and the Read Across Jamaica initiative were discussed, with over 50 participants engaged.

The very successful weekend’s meetings culminated with a tour of the Education and STEM departments of both St Thomas and Florida Atlantic Universities.

IMG_8818Mrs. Claudeth Fletcher from Brown’s Town Community College remarks: “the weekend activities provided proof of the tremendous commitment of the JDETF to advancing education in Jamaica.  Under the leadership of Leo Gilling, the Task Force was able to rally  the support  and interest of members of the Diaspora  who, undoubtedly,   showed  a willingness  to share their experiences  and give  of their time and resources  to enhance education in Jamaica.  I was heartened  by the discussions  around how  education experts in  Jamaica  and those in the diaspora  can forge partnerships  to provide  a platform for exchanges that will benefit  education  in Jamaica  as well as in the diaspora.   There was a lot of  interest in the upcoming workshops  and Summit  2016.  I commend the different working  groups”.

IMG_8844Dr. Asburn Asburn Pinnock, President of Mico University College noted that “it was very heartwarming to observe the great support from the Jamaican delegation and the United States Dispora who were assembled in Florida in order to focus their collective wisdom towards a project geared towards the upliftment of Jamaican children. Congratulations to Leo Gilling, the JTA and their teams for making this happen. I am looking forward to a great summit”.
LesleyAnn Samuel, President of UJAA summarized the forum.  “I was delighted to be have the opportunity to be a part of the planning for our 2016 Education Summit. We are very committed to advancing education in Jamaica, particularly since most of us are products of that system, and recognize its value in our lives.  It was stimulating and energizing to be surrounded by similarly minded individuals who not only have the passion and dedication to our mission, but who are also authorities in their respective fields.  Our partnerships with the Jamaica Teachers Association and the Ministry of Education is similarly gratifying.  Together, there is nothing that we cannot achieve.  We are all rowing in the same direction – for our children and our island home.  As you may have heard me say, UJAA stands at the ready – in fellowship, in partnership, in covenant – committed to promoting our view that “Education is empowerment; only the educated are free”.

IMG_8811Dr. Joan Reid of the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) is pleased with the collaboration of the various organizations represented which included Loma Linda University, the Union of Jamaica Alumni Association, the Jamaica Teachers Association, Mico University College, Browns Town Community College and the Ministry of Education. The Florida state officials who were in attendance gave their endorsements.  The ECC is also satisfied with the focus towards the advancement of education for teachers in the early childhood sector. It is therefore looking forward to the results of the planning meetings that will redound to the successful outcome of the Summit and the benefits that will accrue to the early childhood sector.  Among the recommendations from the meetings for the 2016 Summit is a smart classroom and online training hubs across the various levels of the education sector to include early childhood, which have the support of the ECC.

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About the author

Leo Gilling