George Davis | Jackass seh 'school nuh level'
Recently, I attended two events to mark the 20th anniversary of leaving Jonathan Grant High School. The first event was a beach day out in St Catherine, while the second was a banquet in St Andrew.
It was special to re-engage with so many of the characters, personalities and friends knew you as a child, who saw you at your most vulnerable and who were witness to your process of transition from 'pickney' to adult, and who saw the first glimpse of what you would become later in life.
It was heartening to hear the stories of success logged over two decades of struggle, hustle and graft from persons who attended an institution with no history of academic excellence.
For those readers or their children who attended the garlanded high schools that contend for, or win, Champs, Schools' Challenge Quiz, Manning and daCosta Cup, Debating Competition and the like each year, there is no reason to celebrate a former schoolmate who is now an officer in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
For those who attended the paragons of high-school excellence in the Corporate Area along with their few rural-area equals, there is nothing special about seeing one of your own stride across the lawns of King's House on Heroes Day to collect his national honour from the governor general for services given to the Jamaica Defence Force. Well, special pride is what I and others from 'Grant' felt when we saw Brian Lundy, one of us from the graduating class of '97, make the short walk to accept a massive honour.
I reminisce about many of those who started with us in 1992 and cannot but be bitter at an education system that didn't allow more success stories to emerge at places like Jonathan Grant. That highly discriminatory and ill-fitting system remains to this day, hoovering up billions of dollars as it consigns even more children to the ranks of the suffering, lacking the skills to self-actualise for the benefit of their families and the glory of their schools.
For what this country has spent on education over time, we should not still be reaping students who either do not know what to do after secondary school, or who lack the ability and capacity to do anything after graduation.
Perhaps it is that the best example of value in the Jamaican education system over time has been the improvement in the adult literacy rate over the decades. According to the US Library of Congress, Jamaica's literacy rate was 16.3 per cent in 1871, 47.2 per cent in 1911, 67.9 per cent in 1943 and 85 per cent in 1979.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning reported that the literacy rate was now at 87 per cent. Clearly, literacy has to be the foundation of learning, but an improvement in adult literacy of two percentage points in the 38 years since 1979 is a piss-poor return for the huge sums allocated to the education sector, cycle after cycle, by successive administrations.
Many of those who didn't achieve great things coming out of Jonathan Grant High in 1997 were victims of the phenomenon where rather than falling by the wayside, they were pushed to the wayside by government policy in schools.
During my high-school years, the system rewarded those who excelled in English language and literature, history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology and, of course, mathematics. The boys or girls who read widely and spoke eloquently were held up to their peers as the stars - worthy of emulation.
In that system where you could not recite and recall elements on the periodic table or write long essays on the complex relationship among Tiger, Urmilla, Joe and Rita in A Brighter Sun, or perform the role of Walter Lee Younger from a scene in A Raisin in the Sun, you were cast as a dunce. No early facilitation was allowed for the literate girl or boy who wanted to dress hair, design clothes, sketch designs for sneakers or clothing, rear animals, or make a career as a performance artiste.
The recollection of this great crime against the Jamaican student makes me even more proud of those from Jonathan Grant who will never be prominent in society, but who have fought the odds to take care of themselves and their families.