‘We want jus­tice’ and ‘work, work, work’

Jamaica Gleaner - - ARTS&EDUCATION - Ed­ward Seaga Ed­ward Seaga is a for­mer prime min­is­ter. Email feedback to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

E WANT jus­tice’ is one of the most pop­u­lar protest cries in Ja­maica. And right­fully so. But while we value the sys­tem of jus­tice, there are some short­falls that limit that ad­mi­ra­tion. One of the main short­com­ings is the pro­duc­tiv­ity of judges in hear­ing and com­plet­ing cases.

There are, un­be­liev­ably, more than 400,000 cases in this cat­e­gory. If all the judges did not take on any ad­di­tional cases but con­cen­trated on clear­ing up the back­log of 400,000, it would take years to bring the piled-up caseload up to date, to say noth­ing of the new ones that would, mean­while, be ac­cu­mu­lat­ing.

Jus­tice ceases to be jus­tice when it takes nine to 10 years and more to hand down de­ci­sions. I know. I have ex­pe­ri­enced this my­self in an ex­tremely im­por­tant mat­ter, which fi­nally had to be set­tled out of court rather than wait any longer.

Dur­ing the hear­ing of this mat­ter, I paid a visit to the Supreme Court. The judge was tasked with writ­ing ver­ba­tim notes by hand. Judges have to do this case after case in the courts. It is such a time-con­sum­ing task, I would never it wish on any­one. After the writ­ing of notes comes the re­search on points of law, which is also very time-con­sum­ing. In ad­di­tion, there is the prepa­ra­tion of ar­gu­ments for a pre­sen­ta­tion to the court, the cen­tre­piece of the judge’s role.

My view at that time was how could any­one be ex­pected to do this amount of work without fall­ing be­hind in pro­duc­tiv­ity? It seemed im­pos­si­ble. But it Stu­dents of the Marie Cole Me­mo­rial Pri­mary School in a cramped class­room. Ac­cord­ing to colum­nist Ed­ward Seaga, “Ed­u­ca­tion has nei­ther been re­formed nor trans­formed. Ed­u­ca­tion has had the same re­sults for 50 years at least, re­mark­ably.” caused me to turn my thoughts to de­vel­op­ing a ‘what if?’ idea, which I hope can as­sist pro­duc­tiv­ity in the courts.

What if le­gal clerks could be found to as­sist judges, at least in the high courts, by re­search­ing cases and pre­par­ing draft briefs on le­gal mat­ters? The main ju­di­cial work­load would then be for the judges to pre­pare their ar­gu­ments. This pro­ce­dure would lift much of the bur­den of work from the judges’ timetable al­low­ing more pro­duc­tiv­ity.

QUAL­I­FIED GRAD­U­ATES

But where would the le­gal tal­ent be found? That is the eas­i­est part. The law schools at the Univer­sity of the West Indies and Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy grad­u­ate some 400 legally trained stu­dents an­nu­ally, of which many ca­pa­ble grad­u­ates can­not find sat­is­fac­tory ful­fill­ing place­ments! What could be bet­ter for a young at­tor­ney than to con­tinue train­ing un­der a watch­ful ju­di­cial eye? This would fur­ther as­sist train­ing for grad­u­ates by giv­ing them wider ex­pe­ri­ence in the de­vel­op­ment of their ca­reers and re­duce the bur­den of work for judges. I do believe that many qual­i­fied grad­u­ates would be ea­ger for the op­por­tu­nity to broaden their ex­pe­ri­ence while, they work and judges would wel­come a sys­tem that could re­duce their work­load bur­den.

In de­ter­min­ing com­pen­sa­tion for le­gal clerks to serve judges, con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to re­duc­tion of in­debt­ed­ness to the Stu­dents’ Loan Bureau for those who are in­volved as an ad­di­tional area that could be used as some com­pen­sa­tion.

The coun­try can­not af­ford to train stu­dents who, after grad­u­a­tion, are un­em­ployed or hold­ing jobs re­quir­ing less qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Turn­ing to a re­lated is­sue, jobs without train­ing, as with jus­tice, there is a peren­nial cry for ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’. It would be won­der­ful if one day that cry be­came ‘joy, joy, joy’, but that is not likely to hap­pen un­til there is a firm com­mit­ment to deal with the prob­lem, not just a thought­ful cry.

Ed­u­ca­tion is the strong­est im­per­a­tive on the so­cial agenda. There is lit­tle com­fort in the tin­ker­ing that is called re­form and trans­for­ma­tion. There are el­e­ments, but largely, they are more so ex­pres­sions of good in­ten­tion.

Ed­u­ca­tion has nei­ther been re­formed nor trans­formed. Ed­u­ca­tion has had the same re­sults for 50 years at least, re­mark­ably. Put an­other way, this is the 50th an­niver­sary of the 70:30 al­lo­ca­tion of pri­ma­ryschool chil­dren to sec­ondary school. An exam was in­tro­duced, the Com­mon En­trance Exam in 1960, which was in­tended to se­lect from the pri­mary-school level stu­dents for sec­ondary schools who, by their exam re­sults, showed that they could man­age sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. The re­main­der were the ones who could not.

Us­ing the num­ber of suc­cess­ful stu­dents as the base line, the for­mula was de­rived: 30 per cent can han­dle sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion and 70 per cent can­not. To ac­com­mo­date the 70 per cent who did not fit into the sec­ondary schools and who could not be sent back to pri­mary in­sti­tu­tions, some 60 sec­ondary schools were built in the 1960s’ with con­sid­er­able sup­port from the World Bank.

FOR­WARD MOVE­MENT

The new schools to ed­u­cate the 70 per cent would change ed­u­ca­tion rad­i­cally, it was thought. There would be re­form and, in­deed, a trans­for­ma­tion. That, how­ever, has not hap­pened. Fifty years later, after much change in the sys­tem, the re­sults re­main the same, 70:30, with some small de­vi­a­tion in some years. So where is the re­form or trans­for­ma­tion? We face a dead­lock in for­ward move­ment for ed­u­ca­tion.

So what is to be done? If the car you are driv­ing has all four tyres flat, a sput­ter­ing en­gine, and no gas in the tank, which do you fix first? The en­gine can be fixed and gas can be put in the tank, but the car still won’t drive even if you in­stall a new en­gine and fill the gas tank un­less you put air in the tyres.

Air in the tyres is the equiv­a­lent of de­vel­op­ment of the early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, a song I have been singing since the 1980s. Teach­ers can­not be asked to tai­lor their teach­ing to fo­cus on the 70 per cent who can­not read or write. That is a long-term mis­sion that should have been done in the ear­lier ed­u­ca­tion stage of those chil­dren so that they could keep pace with the 30 per cent group. If they can­not keep pace, they will fall fur­ther and fur­ther be­hind un­til at grad­u­a­tion, they are without any, or have in­suf­fi­cient, passes to grad­u­ate.

This is where the real prob­lem be­gins. The grad­u­at­ing 30 per cent can more or less take care of them­selves, but the 70 per cent, by and large, can­not. That 70 per cent is not go­ing to fade away. The 70 per cent is not go­ing to be able to mi­grate, and they are not go­ing to die. So how do they live off the crumbs that fall from the table?

Things have changed since the 1970s. More and more boys and young men who don’t want crumbs are tak­ing away ta­bles full of food, and if you try to stop them, they will fight to death, your death or theirs. They have been ne­glected too long, and be­cause they don’t see a way out, they con­sider them­selves in des­per­a­tion – ‘done dead al­ready’.

It may be said that it is al­ready too late to find a way out to bring early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion se­ri­ously into the sys­tem to be­gin a real trans­for­ma­tion. “It will cost too much,” will be the re­sponse. But if we think that would be costly, we should check the cost if it is not done.

I am re­minded of an in­ci­dent that oc­curred at a Christ­mas treat at which I was present. For the ben­e­fit of those who have es­caped help­ing to carry the bur­den of the une­d­u­cated in the pop­u­la­tion, I will tell the story of a lit­tle boy at the func­tion. I saw a lit­tle two-year-old boy with an ice cream cone that he could not han­dle. As a re­sult, he was cry­ing openly with the ice cream in his nose and on his cheeks.

At that point, a teacher picked him up, and, hold­ing him high, bel­lowed, “A who fah pick­ney dis?” Well, for the ben­e­fit of those who believe they have es­caped the bur­den, “a fi yu pick­ney,” who will one day be part of the 70 per cent.

This is at least one rea­son why early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion has to be dealt with ef­fi­ciently to fast-for­ward from 70 per cent une­d­u­cated by re­vers­ing the prob­lem to 70 per cent ed­u­cated and 30 per cent une­d­u­cated. Then ‘joy, joy, joy’ will be the call ev­ery­where.

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