PNP promises to abolish 'Apartheid system of education'

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Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, has vowed that a future People's National Party (PNP) government will abolish what he describes as "the apartheid system of education in Jamaica".

Apartheid was the system of government that existed in South Africa up to the early 1990s, in which the black majority was segregated from the white minority, excepting for work. The majority black population was poorly educated and mostly impoverished. Phillips made the promise on Sunday as he addressed the public session of the PNP's 80th annual conference inside the National Arena in St Andrew. He was presenting what he called the PNP's 'covenant with the people'. The Opposition leader stressed that the covenant that is to also address matters related to land ownership in order to resolve the longstanding squatting problem, "will not cover everything". Neither is it a manifesto.

peter-phillips-photo-4.jpgDr Phillips told cheering Comrades on Sunday that one of the biggest problems facing the country at the moment is that of inequality.

"This vast gap that exists between the few and the many is (at) the heart of what is holding us back as a country," he said.

Apart from the inequality issue, Phillips noted that 60 per cent of the country's labour force earns the minimum wage, with 80 per cent of what is earned spent on food.

"They live at low wages, but we can't get out of the low wage trap if we not educating the majority of our children," Phillips argued.

In addressing what he called the reality of education in Jamaica today, Phillips pointed to 45 schools where three out of every four children get five subjects, including mathematics and English Language. He said those students were effectively getting a "world-class education".

"And you have 118 non-traditional high schools where not even two (students) in 10 getting the same results. Those youngsters in the non-traditional high schools are the people that end up a bette'n (betting) shop door a roll a spliff a morning time, and we see them. Sometimes we see them so often we don't even see them. We get used to it. Life can't gwaan so. So our commitment is to change these structures of inequality by assaulting these structures and the institutions that keep poverty entrenched in this country, and inequality scarring our lives," Phillips said to strong applause.

"We give our commitment that we will abolish the apartheid system of education in Jamaica," Phillips added.

He told the crowd that the party will harness the support of the entire country to get it done, including the churches, the private sector, teachers, parents and community-based organisations.

"We make the commitment that the next PNP government will provide every student in Jamaica with at least one meal daily, because pickney can't learn on a hungry belly," he said.