Old for new

I made the movie above (mouse over) before I had done any research on the chapel. More fool me. The building was not there in 1906 because it was only built reassembled in 1956. Here’s the story . . .

The Chapel began in 1799 as a warehouse on the Gale’s Valley Estate in the parish of Trelawny. In 1955, the building was no longer functioning as a part of the Gale’s Valley sugar works. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone and Chancellor of the University College of the West Indies, suggested to the then owner, Mrs. Kelly Lawson, that the warehouse would make a great chapel for the University, where it would be put to greater use and its Georgian beauty could be better preserved. Mrs. Lawson agreed with the Princess’s suggestion and in 1956 with financial help from the Custos of St. James, Sir Francis Kerr-Jarrett, she transported the warehouse stone by stone from Gale’s Valley Estate to the University campus at Mona. Princess Alice had also received $80,000 from a Canadian donor which was used to cover the rest of the transportation costs.

The chapel was formally dedicated on February 14, 1960. The name of the original owner, ‘Edward Morant Gale, Esquire’, can be seen running on the entire length of the wall on the northern side of the building just below the coping, and it is followed by the date ‘1799’, the year Gale’s Valley was established. The fabulous portico at the west side of the chapel was added after the University College separated from the University of London in 1962 to become the University of the West Indies.

Source: Jamaica National Heritage Trust

The observant will note the same student revising to re-sit his first year exams . . . still there after 100 years.

Joking aside, the reality is that many of those who do graduate do not stay and work in Jamaica. It has been estimated that 85 per cent of tertiary-educated Jamaicans have emigrated (source). This means that Jamaicans’ taxes have been used to pay for higher education for a few, who then leave and take their subsidized skills with them. The host country gets a bargain: highly educated and motivated workers whose childhood and education expenses (the biggest part of state investment) have already been paid by the poorer country of origin. Sure these emigrants contribute to the home country (the value of remittances equals that of the largest Jamaican economic sector: tourism), but the money sent back goes into consumer goods and not into investment in communities. The final cut is that Jamaica is unable to fulfil its own needs in skilled labour, particularly in nursing and other health care specialists – there is even talk of importing doctors from Ghana – a case of the weak exploiting the weaker.

The obvious reason for migrating – higher salaries – is not the only motivation. It is part of a larger goal, that of greater opportunity. In Jamaica, there are fewer posts available for skilled personnel. Yet creating more posts would require more investment . . . which is lacking because of low government income from taxes paid elsewhere, “a farrin”.

Another problem often cited is the low social mobility in Jamaica.

The status quo of operations that seems prevalent in Jamaica can be characterised as a rigid-tier system with restricted upward mobility. The associated dysfunctions of cronyism, nepotism, coercion, corruption and parochial self-interest may exist in all nations, but the systemic nature of them in all of Jamaica’s societal institutions leads to a more entrenched problem that undermines the overall effectiveness of the nation.

Source: Letter to the Gleaner

For doctors, the situation seems particularly bad.

One expatriate physician, who wouldn’t use his real name and agreed to talk only if he could use the pseudonym ‘John Jones’, said a group of older men who have a stranglehold on the upper tier of the medical world in Jamaica are responsible for driving bright young graduates out of the country.

Source: Leslie Goffe, Sunday Observer

One solution? Introduce an obligatory period of national service for all graduates.

One thought on “Old for new”

Comments are closed.