Maths teachers leaving for jobs overseas

News post August 19, 2016

Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid (left) expressing concerns about the departure of teachers in critical subject areas from the secondary school system. He was speaking at a press conference held at the education ministry at Heroes Circle yesterday. Also participating are state minister in the education ministry, Floyd Green (centre) and Permanent Secretary Dr Maurice Smith. (Photo: Michael Gordon)

The education ministry has confirmed that a number of teachers in the critical subject area of math are taking up jobs overseas and will not be returning to the secondary school system in the upcoming academic year. However, the ministry said it is uncertain at this point exactly how many teachers are quitting. Speaking at a press conference at the ministry’s head office at Heroes Circle yesterday, portfolio minister Senator Ruel Reid disclosed that out of an overall total of 1,784 high school math teachers, only 207 are fully qualified to teach up to Grade 11. Last year, 111 of those left, leaving 96 fully qualified math teachers in the system. “It is believed many took up teaching opportunities overseas. Undoubtedly, this would have affected the preparation of a number of students. In addition, this loss would have a significant impact on the ability of schools to maintain the standards of teaching and learning established particularly over the past four years,” Reid told journalists. He was speaking against the background of the results of the 2016 Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) examinations, which show a 14.3 per cent decline in math grades over last year. Senator Reid said the ministry could not yet confirm how many math and science teachers are leaving, because oftentimes they do not notify the schools until the last minute. “By the end of October we will have a general picture of what is taking place, because as we speak, there are movements taking place (and) some schools are not even aware yet whether teachers are not returning,” he said. “In my experience, unfortunately they do not tell you whether they are leaving or not, and even if you ask, the answer may not necessarily be accurate, so it’s a challenge. You’re really not going to know until school resumes.” Under the Education Act a teacher may terminate their employment without notice if there is a written agreement between the teacher and the school board. Unilateral termination without the consent of the board can attract a charge of professional misconduct. It is not clear, however, how this penalty could be applied in the case of a teacher who has migrated. Senator Reid noted that at one point recruitment for overseas jobs was done through the Government, but teachers are now being recruited privately through various media. “That is a problem. The recruitment is not going through the protocols that we have established,” he said. At the same time, the education minister stressed that the Government is putting measures in place to plug whatever gaps may be left in the system, including deploying an additional 50 mathematics coaches across the island. One prominent traditional high school in Kingston has confirmed that it has lost three math and science teachers going into the 2016 academic year. Kingston College Principal Dave Myrie referred to the issue as the “second wave” of teacher migration, in a Jamaica Observer interview. “They saw it as a good opportunity, and I can understand people looking at opportunities and wanting to make a better life for themselves. The entire family is moving in one of the cases. I wouldn’t say it’s going to affect us because they advised from early that the possibility exists (so) we advertised fairly early. We also had other options already looking at that we could explore, once we had confirmation of the move,” he explained. The boys’ school principal stressed however that replacing math and science teachers is usually a hard task. “If you’re losing enough, it means that there is going to be a shortage at some point, and you lose experience. You don’t want to be losing experienced persons,” Myrie stated. The Observer also learnt that another prominent Kingston school will see six teachers taking up jobs overseas in September, some of them heads of departments. However, the principal of that school could not be contacted for comment. Meanwhile, Ardenne High Principal Nadine Molloy insists that incentives must be put on the table if the country wants to keep its qualified teachers. “We have not been able to get to the place where we can pay people. Successive governments have failed to look at incentivising those areas that we need to retrain teachers in…we may have to put some incentive programmes in place that will keep teachers in the system for some time,” she said. “We can train persons, we just need to look at where we have the gaps and work with the principals and teachers to fill the gaps. Let’s quickly get to the drawing board and see how we can better equip those persons who are left behind to take up the slack,” Molloy added.

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Improved passes in 13 CSEC subjects

News post August 19, 2016

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) –The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, is reporting improved passes in 13 of the 35 subjects taken by students in this year’s Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examination.

Of the 34,486 students, who sat the exams, 29,406 obtained passes ranging from grades 1-3, reflecting a pass rate of 85.2 per cent. Of the candidates who sat, 19,362 were females and 15,124 were males.  This was disclosed by portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, during a press conference today (August 18) at the Ministry’s Heroes Circle offices in Kingston to provide results for CSEC, the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and City and Guilds. He informed that the highest percentage increase of 12.3 per cent was recorded in Biology. There were improvements in Human and Social Biology, of 4.9 percentage points; and Physics, 0.7 percentage points. Minister Reid informed that the pass rate for English Language was 71.2 per cent reflecting a 6.2 percentage point increase.  Meanwhile, the 47.7 per cent pass rate for Mathematics was a 14.3 percentage point decline over 2015. He said the ministry will be implementing a number of initiatives to deal with the decline in Mathematics, which comes after three consecutive years of improvement in the subject area. Among them is ensuring that there are more adequately trained teachers in the system. “Based on our 2013/2014 census, only 207 of the 1,784 mathematics teachers deployed in the secondary education system are fully qualified to teach mathematics to grade 11. This means only 207 have at least a bachelors’ degree in mathematics teaching,” he pointed out. He said it is estimated that 111 fully qualified teachers left the system in 2015, which would have affected the preparation of a significant number of students, and the ability of schools to maintain the standards of teaching and learning. Meanwhile, 59,394 students sat CAPE Units One and Two, attaining an overall pass rate of 86.6 per cent, which is 1.7 percentage points below the 88.3 per cent average pass rate for 2015. “Student performance in Agricultural Science and Environmental Science recorded the strongest movement of 12.4 per cent and 12.2 per cent, respectively,” the Education minister informed. Candidates recorded improvements in Mathematics-related subjects, with a 10.8 per cent pass rate for Electrical and Electronic Technology; and Pure and Applied Mathematics at 2.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively. There were also improvements in Caribbean Studies (2.8 per cent); History (5.4 per cent); Management of Business (5.1 per cent); Physics (0.4 per cent) and Sociology (2.4 per cent). For City and Guilds, there were 11,029 entries for assessment in reading and writing. Of this total, approximately 8,400 were from grade 11 and close to 2,600 from the Career Advancement Programme (CAP). At grade 11, the overall pass rate for all three stages combined was 70.65 per cent.

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Shut it down!

News post August 18, 2016

 Falmouth mayor under fire over drain project, A trench with stagnant water at a section of Market Street in Falmouth.

FALMOUTH, Trelawny Custos of Trelawny, businessman Paul Muschett, has called for the suspension of work on the construction of the multi-million dollar streetscape project now underway along Market Street in the north western town of Falmouth, until worrying safety issues are resolved.

“Mr Mayor [Councillor Garth Wilkinson] let me just say this, the construction should be shut down immediately until the man [contractors] have remedial work done. You can’t have a piece of rope dividing pedestrians from the construction. Come on man!” the custos said. “If it was abroad that construction would have been shut down and people taken to court because it is a public safety hazard.” The outspoken Muschett was speaking at a meeting last week with Mayor of Falmouth Councillor Garth Wilkinson and members of the business community who are up in arms over the displacement and inconvenience being experienced in sections of Falmouth since the start of the project. President of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce Delroy Christie questioned why the project was not halted when the contractors started to do both sides of the usually busy Market Street. “The programme should have started from the west then the east side. So from the first day they start digging on both sides you shut down the work. So why didn’t that happen?” asked the Chamber boss. But Mayor Wilkinson explained that for expediency, he insisted that the two sides be done simultaneously. “ I wanted and I never relented… I was the one who wanted it done with speed,” the Falmouth mayor conceded, adding that the time frame for the project, which commenced in May, is roughly six months. Wilkinson further illustrated that he took the lesson from the long delays encountered by the Falmouth Street leg of the project, in arriving at the decision. “Falmouth Street became a nightmare. For months and months you couldn’t drive on Falmouth Street because we basically locked off Falmouth Street. Falmouth Street was a disaster for close to nine months. We never want the same to happen to us on Market Street and one of the insistences is that the contractors do the street at the fastest time possible,” Wilkinson told the gathering. But, the explanation did nothing to appease the business interests in attendance at the meeting, who claimed they were not aware of the project until tractors starting excavating the sidewalks, leaving gaping “trenches” in front of their business establishments, denying customers easy access. “As we speak there is a 10-yard crater in front of my store and this has been the case since the 19th of June. When are we going to allow the customers to enter my store? I operate a pharmacy, which services sick people, some of whom are wheelchair bound. Since they have nowhere to access -bearing in mind, nobody to this date has indicated to us that work is going to be done in front of our store – we are going to be displaced… ,” businesswoman Sonia Shirley argued. Another businesswoman, Doreen HoSue, who operates on the same building, expressed similar sentiments. “I only came one day to see a tractor before my parkway there. Nobody has told us what is going on. There is no access, the steps were knocked down. Six weeks now and I have to park my car elsewhere; I have to take a taxi … nobody informed the business people that there would be construction of any sort there,” Hosue said. But, Wilkinson, who apologised for the inconvenience caused by the project, pointed out that during a public consultation, where most of the businesspeople were in attendance, the scope of the project was explained. “I must apologise as the chairman of the Trelawny Parish Council for the inconvenience that has been caused by the work that is presently being done. It was not easy for us to put this together the project that we have worked long and hard for,” the mayor of Falmouth said. The Tourism Enhancement Fund is financing the project with the Trelawny Parish Council, the Port Authority of Jamaica and the Urban Development Corporation, as the monitoring agencies.

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Cops search for missing colleague

News post August 18, 2016

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The police are this morning searching for one of their colleagues who reportedly went missing on Monday. He is 28-year-old Richard Logan, a district constable assigned to the St Andrew North Division. Logan, who is of Brooks Level Road, Stony Hill in St Andrew, is said to have a brown complexion, slim build and is about 170 centimetres (5 feet 7 inches) tall.

Reports from the Stony Hill Police are that Logan was last seen in the Stony Hill square about 7:00 pm Monday, dressed in a red plaid shirt, grey jeans pants and a pair of combat boots. All efforts to contact him have proven futile. Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Richard Logan is being asked to contact the Stony Hill Police at 942-2223, police 119 emergency number or the nearest police station. No photograph of Richard Logan was available at the time of this publication.

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Plans advanced for use of drones to combat praedial larceny

News post August 17, 2016

Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries JC Hutchinson (centre), has the full attention of farmers in Lowe River, Trelawny yesterday. ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) – Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries JC Hutchinson, says plans are well advanced for the use of drones to combat the problem of praedial larceny.

Addressing farmers and other stakeholders at a drone demonstration session in Lowe River, Trelawny, yesterday, Hutchinson informed that the unmanned aerial vehicles will be equipped with technology to locate stolen animals.

He noted that the use of the drones is expected to provide relief for farmers, who have been facing significant losses as a result of farm theft. It is estimated that some $5 billion worth of crops and livestock are lost annually due to the scourge. “Praedial larceny is one of those problems that have been plaguing farmers and have been threatening the growth of the sector for decades,” Hutchinson pointed out. “We are not saying the drones will be the end all, but we see where they can be an effective fighting tool against this scourge. This problem has stifled the growth of the sector and is a deterrent to many people who want to get into agriculture. We feel that the use of drones could be a game changer and the ringing in of a new era in the fight against praedial larceny,” he said. Hutchinson noted that the parish of Trelawny was the first stop for the drone demonstration, adding that sessions will be carried out in other parts of the island.

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MOCA, TAJ target tax evaders in Clarendon

News post August 17, 2016

The operations, which began at 5:30 am Wednesday is targeting “chronically delinquent taxpayers” who have refused to comply with the orders of the court, the TAJ said in a news release.KINGSTON, Jamaica – Members of the Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) and Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) continue operations in sections of Clarendon today, to recover outstanding taxes from tax evaders.

The operations are expected to continue for several hours.

The TAJ said yesterday’s operations in the Old Harbour communities of Marlie Gardens, Old Harbour Villas, Aviary, New Harbour Village, Rhone Park Estate, Church Pen, and East Street resulted in 17 taxpayers making full payments on spot, while several others paid down significant amounts with  arrangements to settle the outstanding sums shortly. TAJ said it will continue to carry out enforcement activities to ensure the protection of the revenue. “Taxpayers are encouraged to speak with the tax authority to make suitable arrangements, if they are faced with difficulties in honouring their tax obligations, particularly where a judgement has been handed down by the court,” TAJ said. “Failure to comply with a court order will result in strong enforcement action to recover the outstanding amounts.”

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Complaining KSAC owes JPS $761m for street lights

News post August 15, 2016

Audit won’t fix the problem, Tomblin tells council

TOMBLIN… the fact is, JPS simply cannot make repairs on the agreed normal cycle without payment being made for street light service

The Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), which last week scolded the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) over non-functioning street lights, owes the light and power company more than $700 million for the service.

In fact, JPS President and CEO Kelly Tomblin pointed out

that the KSAC’s debt is part of the more than $4 billion owed by the Government at the end of July 2016.

“The fact is, JPS simply cannot make repairs on the agreed normal cycle without payment being made for street light service. Arrears for the KSAC reached $761 million at the end of July 2016, and we have received only $194 million in payment since June 2015 (against an average monthly bill of $60 million),” Tomblin said in a letter to the editor in response to a report in last Thursday’sJamaica Observer on complaints about non-functioning street lights voiced at last Tuesday’s KSAC council meeting. The council had passed a resolution urging the local government ministry to withhold payments to JPS for non-working street lights which are not repaired within one month of being reported. The resolution also asked for a night audit of all street lights in the municipality. People’s National Party (PNP) councillor Otis Hamilton (Red Hills Division), who moved the motion, said that Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, in his address to the KSAC council earlier this year, stated that 50 per cent of the streetlights in his Kingston Western constituency were not working. Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor John Myers (Lawrence Tavern Division) told the Observer that more than 200 street lights of an estimated 393 in his division were not working. “Why pay the JPS if we are not getting service? We need to zone the divisions and pay according to the lights that work,” Myers said. PNP Councillor Kari Douglas (Trafalgar Division) complained that the streetlighting situation made councillors “tired, frustrated and hopeless”. But in her response, Tomblin pointed out that JPS had, since the start of this year, repaired more than 12,000 streetlights, and over 3,000 of these are in Kingston and St Andrew.

Below is the full text of Tomblin’s letter.

Dear Editor,

Please allow me to respond to a report in Thursday’s (August 11) edition of the

Daily Observer that the KSAC has passed a resolution to conduct an audit of working street lights across Kingston and St Andrew.

While we welcome another audit of street lights, let us not forget that the 2013 audit was not a “JPS audit” – as stated by one of the KSAC councillors – but a joint effort by the Ministry of Local Government, JPS, the parish councils and the KSAC. A daytime audit was agreed on by all parties, as the specific objective was to count all lamps and establish an accurate baseline of installed street lights across the island – together. The results of that joint audit, which was accepted by all parties, showed that JPS is billing for far fewer street lights than are installed. There was always a plan for a follow-up joint night audit to verify working lights, subject to the ministry and the parish councils identifying funding on their side. We believe, however, that the result of any such audit is very predictable and will confirm what we all already know – some street lights are out of service. What the audit will not reveal is the impact of theft on street lighting, and the fact that JPS is not being paid for street lighting service. We take the issues of safety and security very seriously, and we share the frustration of our customers when streetlights remain out for extended periods. Since the start of this year, JPS has repaired over 12,000 street lights, and more than 3,000 of these lights are in Kingston and St Andrew. The fact is, JPS simply cannot make repairs on the agreed normal cycle without payment being made for streetlight service. Arrears for the KSAC reached $761 million at the end of July 2016, and we have received only $194 million in payment since June 2015 (against an average monthly bill of $60 million). Let me be clear, the KSAC is not the only municipality that owes JPS for street lighting. Up to the end of July, JPS was owed more than $4 billion for street lighting. Paying down the arrears is the only way the KSAC and parish councils, with us, can stop this cycle of street lamps going unrepaired for longer periods than is acceptable. Until JPS gets paid for its street lights, and until we get full support for our efforts to stop theft from street lights, service can never match the expectations of our customers and the objectives of JPS. We continue to have discussions with the Government, the KSAC and parish councils across Jamaica, with a view to arriving at a solution to this problem as soon as possible.

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Woman hit by truck in Cross Roads hospitalised

News post August 12, 2016

A woman narrowly escaped death yesterday after she was hit by a trailer truck in Cross Roads, St Andrew.

The driver of the vehicle, who was questioned by the Cross Roads Police, said that the woman was attempting to make her way across the road when she was hit.

“A cross she a cross the road and the truck hit har, but mi nuh know which part she get hit,” he told the

Jamaica Observer.

Police Constable Oliver Livingston said the woman, whose identity was not ascertained up until press time last night, was rushed to the Kingston Public Hospital for treatment. However, the severity of her injuries was not known. In the meantime, Constable Livingston used the incident to appeal to pedestrians to observe the traffic lights and to use the pedestrian crossing. He said the police have been grappling with the wanton disregard for the proper use of the road by pedestrians in the Cross Roads area, which has resulted in several mishaps. He said that more needs to be done to educate pedestrians how to be safe on the roads.

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Downtown TRN office reopens today

News post July 25, 2016

THE Taxpayer Registration Card Centre in downtown Kingston, which was the scene of a murder-suicide two Fridays ago, is to reopen today following a one-week closure.

In a press release yesterday, Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) said the centre, located at Shops 26 and 27, Kingston Mall, will open at 8:00 am. “The temporary closing was as a result of a tragic incident that took place at the office on Friday, July 15,” TAJ said, referring to the incident in which a security guard shot and killed his common-law wife, who was working at the office, before turning the gun on himself. The incident, which happened before midday, caused panic among staff and clients.

The two have been identified as Paul Martin, 50, who was employed to KingAlarm, and Colette Hibbert, 44, who was employed to Guardsman Group. The two had been together for two decades, according to family members. Yesterday, TAJ said that, during the weeklong closure, “steps were taken to assess the damage, undertake clean-up activities, and improve the security arrangements to ensure the smooth restoration of operations at that location”.

“Additionally, ongoing counselling is being provided for staff,” TAJ said. “This resumption of services means that taxpayers can now conduct their usual TRN (Taxpayer Registration Number) transactions at that location,” TAJ added.

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Hylton Resigns As Chairman Of PNP Eastern St Andrew Apparatus

News post July 25, 2016

Andre Hylton
Andre Hylton, the Peoples’ National Party (PNP) candidate who failed to retain the Eastern St Andrew seat in the February 25 polls, has resigned as chairman of the party’s constituency apparatus. Hylton submitted his resignation letter to PNP Region Three Chairman Phillip Paulwell on Friday. The resignation becomes effective on July 31. He did not cite a reason for his resignation, but stated “unity is the hallmark of any political organisation and going forward I sincerely hope the constituency of Eastern St Andrew will apply this mantra to regain this seat for our great party”.

According to Hylton, over the last eight years “many lessons have been learnt, many bonds forged but more importantly, I made every effort to meet the needs of my constituents in making their lives comfortable…”

The businessman was a first-time MP when he defeated another first-timer, the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Dr Saphire Longmore, to capture the seat in 2011. However, Hylton lost to the JLP’s Fayval Williams in February.

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Driver in fatal Flat Bridge plunge to be charged

News post July 19, 2016

THE driver of a Suzuki Vitara that plunged into Rio Cobre early Saturday morning, resulting in the death of six people, is set to be slapped with several charges. The crash happened in the vicinity of the historic Flat Bridge.

Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen, who heads the police Traffic Division, said in a radio interview yesterday that among the charges to be laid is one for not having a driver’s licence. The 30-year-old man turned himself over to the Spanish Town police on Sunday. He was one of two people who survived the accident.

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UWI Blunder – University Honours Rowley, Slights Holness

News post July 19, 2016

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness at a media briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday. The Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is facing embarrassment surrounding this week’s planned induction of Dr Keith Rowley, prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, into its honour park. The university established the park in 2005 to honour past students who are sitting or former heads of government and have their names engraved on a monument.

The Office of the Prime Minister has announced that Rowley’s induction is to take place on Wednesday morning. However, it is the absence of the name of Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, 43, that could leave the 68-year-old regional institution embarrassed. Holness, a past student of the UWI, is now in his second stint as prime minister. He served first as head of government for the period October 23, 2011 to January 5, 2012, following the resignation of Bruce Golding. He started his second premiership when he was sworn in on March 3, days after leading the Jamaica Labour Party to victory in the general election in February.

During a visit to the park yesterday, The Gleaner noted the names of 16 Caribbean heads of government who have been bestowed with the honour by the university. Their names are listed under an inscription which reads: “UWI graduates who are or have been heads of government.” The university, in response to a Gleaner query about the absence of Holness’ name, explained yesterday that when the park was established in 2005, it was decided to induct all graduates who were prime ministers up to that time, and for the future, while they were office.

The university, however, did not say why Holness was not honoured almost four years after his first stint in office, with no guarantee he would have become head of government for a second time. “It (the university) has not yet inducted the current prime minister of Jamaica, Hon Andrew Holness. Initial overtures were made when he first served as head of government (October 2011 to January 2012). However, he demitted office before a ceremony could be held,” read the statement sent to The Gleaner by Dr Carroll Edwards, director, marketing, recruitment and communications at the UWI, Mona.

“Arrangements are being put in place to induct Prime Minister Holness at an early date which is convenient for him and his office,” it added. According to the statement, in honouring non-Jamaicans, “It was decided that induction ceremonies would be held at a convenient time, preferably during an official visit to Jamaica.” Meanwhile, protocol consultant Merrick Needham said the university should have considered inducting Holness, especially because his first premiership was almost five years ago.

“If they (UWI) are thinking of the Trinidad and Tobago prime minister at the moment, and reasonable enough, given his (Rowley’s) visit here, it would have been rather thoughtful if they had thought of having a double ceremony inducting both prime ministers at the same ceremony,” Needham told The Gleaner.

Rowley obtained a first degree in geology from the Mona campus – where he also graduated with a doctorate in geology. Holness, who is listed on the UWI, Mona, website among “famous alumni”, has a Master of Science degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Science in management studies. Rowley, who was elected prime minister last September, is in Jamaica on the invitation of Holness and is due to end his first official visit to the island on Thursday.

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