February 26 - Lessons, Local News, Healthcare and
On Monday I submitted a business proposal to Cable & Wireless outlining
the contributions we hope they'll agree to make to our project. If they sign
on, which it looks like they will, we'll need to be prepared to take our project
to another level. We're limited in the number of schools we can possibly visit
using our current 6 weeks of visits program. Although we intend to continue
with that model throughout our time here (we're staring at Tivoli Gardens high
school tomorrow and Camper Down next week!) we're adding an additional method
of training. We'll be holding full-day trainings for teachers in which we'll
train them in both FruityLoops and skyBuilders and in how to teach them to students.
With a little organization ahead of time, teachers from a school should leave
a training with a live school website and FruityLoops software for their school
computer lab as well as all the skills they'll need to teach our curriculum.
We'll do follow-up visits at each school to help the programs get started and
to make sure they are progressing well. The catch is, to this point we haven't
had a formal curriculum. This is absolutely key if we are going to expect teachers
to be able to adopt our program after a single day of training. So we are
Announcing the first few
installments of the Harvard-Jamaica Project Currculum!
They are geared specifically towards teachers and students participating
in our program, but if you are interested in learning and have your own copy
of FruityLoops or want to build your own skyBuilders site, they may be fun to
try out. We've been working on them steadily and we'll be continuing to add
more over the next few weeks. By the time we have our first C&W-sponsored
full-day workshop for teachers we hope to have complete curricula (sp?) available
online and in print for the participating schools. If you do try them out, we'd
love your feedback and error checking--just send us an email.
On a personal note, the C&W legal and regulatory team invited
me to come do a private Internet law course for their team. I think it will
be a great opportunity to actually work with an ISP on their Internet policy.
I'm really looking forward to it. Also, it won't be bad to get paid!
I've mentioned the local news in my blog before, I think--mainly
in reference to what we see on the local network TV news (20 minutes of local
stuff and business, 1 sentence on international news, 5 minutes of weather and
about 30 minutes of cricket and local sports). Although most people watch at
least one hour of the TV news here, I think, the main method of finding out
what is really on the minds of Kingstonians is through the talk shows that are
on all day long in the radios in every car. There is usually a local political
story-of-the-moment that is being discussed on every single radio talk show
and in every car. I think these stories and peoples' reactions to them give
an interesting window into what is happening here. I'll relate two recent ones:
- Early last week a rasta man was selling stuff (boxes of juice, matches,
gum, etc.) out of a cart near Devon House (a famous old house with very pretty
public grounds). This is not unusual at all: there are always several rasta
men with carts in the vicinity and rastas and others with similar carts all
over the city. This particular man, like many others, did not have a license
to be selling anything out of his cart. Here's where the story gets a little
unclear. For some reason the police approached this man and started giving
him a hard time (presumably because of his lack of a license). Given the way
the police operate here, they probably wanted a significant sum of money from
him in order to leave him alone. After a few minutes they began beating him
with clubs, it is unclear whether they were provoked in any way at all. (It
seems to me that it could have been unprovoked, could have been because he
didn't have the money to pay them off, could be because he refused to pay
them off, could be because he yelled at them, could be--though I doubt it--that
he attacked them in some way.) In some form of self defense against the beating
by multiple police men, he pulled out a machete. The police then shot and
killed him. All this in broad daylight, just after the end of morning rush
hour, on a main Kingston thoroughfare (our street actually, about 10 blocks
from our house.) When questioned about the conduct of these police men, the
authorities said it was a proper part of their "front-line duty".
There was no indication that any investigation would be done, nor that there
would be any consequences for the police officers involved. The people of
Kingston (at least all those I encountered) were outraged. In particular they
found it awful that this could happen to a man for doing nothing worse than
creating a job for himself when there far too few jobs in this city to go
around. They felt the injustice that seems too frequently to befall the rasta
man. They expressed a deep-seated distrust of the police and dislike of their
tactics. I did not hear a single account of the story in which there was anything
other than total implicit belief that the man in question was entirely innocent
in his behavior in the situation. No one seemed to have any doubt that the
police could have just done it out of malice.
- Early this week the other shoe dropped in a story that had been brewing
for a while. Recently a government contractor and Kingston don who gets a
great deal of the PNP government contracts and is a huge political supporter
of the PNP was found to have received over JA$3.5 billion in overpayment on
the contracts he was performing for the government. This was enough to greatly
upset quite a few people, especially the JLP leaders. Seemingly doing the
right thing, the police managed to get a large number of sworn statements
from witnesses corroborating the existence of the massive corruption and overpayment
to this man. Then, mysteriously, on Monday of this week, it came to light
that the names of all of the witnesses and all existing copies of their sworn
statements and all other government evidence had somehow ended up in the possession
of the man accused of the corruption and was now inaccessible to investigators.
Unsurprisingly, all of the witnesses also revoked their sworn statements and
many seemed to be living in mortal fear. In contrast to the outrage about
the death of the rasta man, this story met with something more akin to resignation.
Everyone seemed to believe this man was entirely above the law and that the
corruption was too great to be battled. Everyone also seemed to see that there
was much more than $3.5 billion in government money going toward all sorts
of things other than doing the work of being a good government. To me this does not look much like good governance.
But this sort of thing doesn't seem to be enough to change most peoples' allegiances.
I'll spare the details, but I had to visit the St. Andrew hospital
in Kingston this morning for a minor ailment. Although the place was unassuming
and not extremely modern, it was more efficient and less overcrowded that most
other hospitals I've ever visited, in the U.S. or elsewhere. My doctor, a young
woman named Dr. Jo-Anne Brathwaite was extremely competent and helpful. Everything
went so smoothly that I didn't even leave in a bad mood or with a headache.
What's more, it cost JA$2000 (US$40) to see the doctor and get lab work done.
I promised you a picture of the inside of a custard apple, so
even though you may be very sick of all of my talk about fruit by now, I'll
at least make good on my promise: