via Willow Walk: Stealing from our Children - Fragano Ledgister
Stealing from our Children
I was a reporter in parliament half a century ago when Norman Manley shepherded through the House, the bill to create the College of Arts, Science and Technology. CAST, now the University of Technology (UTECH) was the intellectual godchild of people as various as Manley, members of the Legislative Council including my own father, and before them Marcus Garvey and others who had for years agitated for a University of Jamaica. The university was a plank in the first PNP Plan for Progress in 1958, At the time the CAST was being debated, the Opposition JLP was waging a campaign which proclaimed: "Saltfish better than education." The Opposition opposed among other things, the government's secondary scholarship programme allowing thousands of poor children to go to places like Jamaica College and Munro. The money would have better been spent on food subsidies, they said. A few years later the same arguments were used to oppose the building of the National Stadium. This opposition was given a macabre twist on the first Independence Day when one Edward Seaga, then minister in charge of the celebrations, attempted to eject Norman Manley from the Royal Box in the Stadium he built. "What is that man doing here?" he shouted, only to be slapped down by the new Prime Minister, Alexander Bustamante, who had a somewhat clearer idea of Jamaican history than Seaga. With all this in the background you may imagine my shock at the attempt this week by the UTECH to capture the Trelawny stadium for its campus. 'If we don't get the stadium, UTECH whines piteously, you will be denying 5,000 children the chance to get an MBA or some other meaningless decoration stamped out by the academic mill. I don't mean that degrees are meaningless, simply that bean-counters in academe have no more right to design the future of this country than anyone else. We can be sure of one thing: of the 5,000 new graduates few if any will have degrees in agronomy, nursing, or any of the practical skills we most urgently require for real development rather than the construction of elegant Ponzi schemes and other scams.