Teething Pains At UTech’s College of Oral Sciences

UnknownLast Wednesday, I telephoned Dr. Irving McKenzie, dean of the College of Oral Sciences at the University of Technology. I wanted to ask a single, straightforward question: Why was UTech bypassing accreditation of its degree programme in dentistry?

I was relieved by Dr McKenzie’s unexpected answer. UTech is not actually avoiding review by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP). A consultant has been hired to manage the long and expensive process. The first stage is self-assessment, which has already started.

So why didn’t Dr. McKenzie say this in his article, “Jamaica Produces World-Class Dentists”, published last Monday? He didn’t even acknowledge CAAM-HP, much less the need for accreditation. Instead, he announced that “the University of Technology (UTech) has made the strategic decision to ensure that graduates of the College of Oral Health Sciences are qualified according to world-class standards”.

Dr. McKenzie seemed to be proposing that the examination administered by the Commission on Dental Competency Assessment (CDCA), based in the US, was insurance enough. Mere accreditation of the academic programme by the unmentionable CAAM-HP didn’t appear to count. But should it be either or?

Making his case for world-class standards, Dr. McKenzie echoed the words of Professor Colin Gyles, deputy president of the University of Technology. In an article headlined, “Carolyn Cooper and the UWI Cartel”, published on April 28, Professor Gyles reported that “The CDCA is described as being like the GOLD standard for dental competency assessment”.

The inflammatory headline of Professor Gyles’ article is the work of a devilish Gleaner editor. The original was much more innocent: “Protecting our nation’s investment in university education”. The provocative headline sent a subliminal message. It was a reminder that I’d invited Vybz Kartel to speak at UWI. But, perhaps, as a teacher of literature, I’m reading too much into it.

THE REAL DEAL

SMILEEE-resized-600.jpgUTech’s last-minute decision to start the accreditation process is the real “world-class” deal. For example, the website of the American Dental Association (ADA) makes it quite clear that “Though requirements vary from state to state, all applicants for dental licensure must meet three basic requirements; an education requirement, a written examination requirement and a clinical examination requirement”.

The website confirms that “The educational requirement in nearly all states is a DDS or DMD degree from a university-based dental education program accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation (ADA CODA). References to accreditation in states’ licensure provisions relate to the CODA and no other agency”.

Dr. McKenzie boastfully announces that “The people of Jamaica can be justly proud that the graduating dentists, having successfully passed this most objective method of assessment, are competent dental professionals that are eligible for licensure by the Dental Council of Jamaica and the licensing bodies of many States in the USA, countries in the region and elsewhere in the world”.

This declaration is not entirely accurate. Passing the CDCA examination is not enough. In order to be licensed in the majority of states within the US, dentists must have graduated from a university with an accredited dental education programme.

Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, the CDCA exam only tests clinical competence. It does not meet the written test requirement, as outlined by the American Dental Association. Are we in the Caribbean willing to settle for lower standards than those of the ADA?

CONSPIRACY THEORY?

imagesDr McKenzie is a busy, busy, busy man. He wears several hats. He’s the chief dental officer in the ministry of health. In that capacity, he’s a long-standing member of the regulatory Dental Council of Jamaica; and, on top of that, he’s dean of the College of Oral Sciences at the University of Technology. It is rumoured that he also has a private practice in dentistry. But that cannot possibly be true. Those patients would really have to be very patient to see him.

Until quite recently, it seems, UTech appeared unwilling to begin the demanding process of accreditation by CAAM-HP. I wonder if the dean of the College of Oral Sciences inveigled the chief dental officer to approach the Dental Council of Jamaica to cut a deal with the CDCA as a way around the obstacle of accreditation! Sounds like a conspiracy theory.

Furthermore, Dr. McKenzie seems to have forgotten which hat he was wearing when he asserted that “the University of Technology (UTech) has made the strategic decision” to ensure that its students could take the CDCA examination. As I understand it, the CDCA does not enter into contractual arrangements with teaching institutions, only with licensing bodies. So the CDCA recognises the Dental Council, not UTech.

Color VersionIn addition, both UTech and UWI dental students are eligible to take the CDCA exam. But, to date, the Dental Council has not officially informed UWI of this development. In effect, UTech got a head start. Their students have already taken a mock exam and are about to do the real-real exam later this month.

What I simply don’t understand is why the minister of health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, has not acted decisively to rein in Dr. McKenzie. But based on his mishandling of the chik-V disaster and, more recently, the Riverton plague, I suppose it’s too much to expect the minister to rise from his state of terminal impotence.

UTech Deputy President Beating His Gums

If he’s not careful, Professor Colin Gyles, deputy president of the University of Technology (UTech), will soon need the services of a graduate of an accredited dental degree programme. He’s just beating his gums in response to my column published last Sunday, “University fi stone dog in the UK?”

There, I state the truth: “UTech hasn’t even applied for accreditation of its dental programme! And the first graduates are about to be let loose on an unsuspecting world”. In his evasive column, “Carolyn Cooper and the UWI cartel”, published last Tuesday, Professor Gyles takes almost 800 words to avoid addressing the issue of accreditation.

redherringInstead, he puts some rather smelly red herrings on the table, hoping, I suppose, to distract readers from the meat of the matter. Professor Gyles says he’s a graduate of the University of the West Indies. That’s irrelevant. Then he makes a nonsensical claim: “It should be evident that any criticism of UTech’s capacity to deliver quality education is a criticism of the institutions from which those experts got their training”.

Perhaps it should be evident. But it is not. Accreditation of a university’s academic programmes – the primary issue here – is not solely dependent on the qualifications of those who are offering training. And, in any case, I was not criticising UTech’s capacity. The quality of actual delivery may be quite different from capacity.

CARICOM ACCREDITATION

What Dr. Gyles fails to admit is that the University of Technology is not accredited by The Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP). As stated on its website, CAAM-HP “is the legally constituted body established in 2003 under the aegis of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), empowered to determine and prescribe standards and to accredit programmes of medical, dental, veterinary and other health professions education on behalf of the contracting parties in CARICOM”.

Furthermore, the website states that “CAAM-HP will serve as the means of providing the assurance of quality that generates confidence in the principal stakeholders, students and the public”. When I checked with the local office of CAAM-HP two Fridays ago, I was informed that several attempts have been made to get the University of Technology to begin the accreditation process. With no success.

Apparently resisting local/regional review, UTech has turned to the US-based Commission on Dental Competency Assessment (CDCA) to legitimise its academic programme. In his response to my column, Prof. Gyles states, “UTech’s dental programme is recognised by the Commission on Dental Competency Assessment (CDCA), which assesses and approves dentists to practise in the United States and Canada. The CDCA is described as being like the GOLD standard for dental competency assessment.

“It is of note that UTech’s College of Oral Health Sciences became the first institution outside of North America to be approved by the CDCA. The current final-year cohort of students from UTech’s dentistry programme will be sitting the CDCA examinations in less than a month”.

FALSE IMPRESSION?

headerCDCAWhat, exactly, does CDCA recognition and approval mean? Nothing much, it would appear. Last Tuesday, I spoke to Dr. Ellis Hall, Director of Examinations at the Commission on Dental Competency Assessment. He immediately confirmed that the Commission is not an accrediting body. It administers exams. That’s it.

Professor Gyles argues that because UTech dental students are about to take the CDCA exams, “It therefore gives a completely false impression of the quality of the cohort of students who will shortly graduate from the programme as fully trained and qualified dentists for them to be described as ‘about to be let loose on an unsuspecting world’”.

The UTech graduates may very well be “fully trained and qualified dentists”. But this is another red herring. How many of us would suspect that the UTech dental degree programme is not accredited? Try as he might, Professor Gyles cannot deny the fact that UTech is pressing along with its dental programme, with no regard for the CARICOM accreditation requirements.

As for the platitude that “We cannot become so fiercely competitive that we tear each other apart and undermine the collective strength that we could muster in order to bolster our own collective survival and competitiveness in the wider world”. Professor Gyles clearly didn’t see my statement that we need more than one university in Kingston. The issue is not competition; it’s competitive advantage.

“SOME KIND OF POYTECHNIC”

Surprisingly, Professor Gyles doesn’t seem to appreciate the value of polytechnic education. He dismissively states, “The impression being given that UTech is some kind of polytechnic that simply tries to duplicate the offerings of traditional universities such as UWI is not true”. The College of Arts, Science and Technology was a polytechnic that did an excellent job of providing professional education. CAST graduates easily found jobs for which their UWI counterparts were unqualified.

imagesAnd it is true that some foolish administrators at UWI turned up their noses at academic programmes they considered beneath them. Like sports. Now, the University is desperately trying to catch up in some of these fields. But the solution to the problem of shortsightedness is not duplication of effort.

The administrators of both UTech and UWI need to sit down and talk about how the limited resources of both the nation and the region can be used to full advantage. Ensuring that all academic programmes are accredited is the first step.

University Fi Stone Dog in the UK?

Believe it or not, influential academics are insisting that there are far too many universities in the UK. Of course, they’re not using our colourful language – university fi stone dog! But it amounts to the same thing. Universities are in such plentiful supply that the issue of wasted resources is now on the national agenda.

imagesLast year, Sir Roderick Floud, former president of Universities UK, made an alarming public statement: half of UK universities should be closed. His remarks were carried by the Telegraph on June 19: “I believe we have too many universities, that they are trying to do too many different things, and that the way we fund their research is fundamentally flawed”.

Practically all universities in the UK are financed by government. So cynics might argue that Floud’s belief is just the backward opinion of an elitist, conservative administrator wanting to curtail public spending on higher education. There may be some truth to that. But Floud does have a point. In the 1990s, British polytechnics were magically transformed into universities with the wave of a wand, it would seem.

Instead of specialising in professional vocational education, polytechnics began to duplicate the offerings of traditional universities. I suppose it’s similar to what the University of Technology has been doing in recent years: replicating practically all the professional programmes offered by the University of the West Indies. Incidentally, UTECH hasn’t even applied for accreditation of its dental programme! And the first graduates are about to be let loose on an unsuspecting world.

This is how Floud sums up the problem: “We don’t need two or more universities in each of our major cities, glowering at each other and competing to attract the attentions of businesses and local authorities.

“Why does Leeds or Sheffield or Oxford, for example, need two vice-chancellors, registrars or groups of governors?

“In London, the situation is even more bizarre, with some 40 universities within the M25 [the motorway that circles the city] and more arriving by the day. The Higher Education Funding Council for England has remained supine in the face of evidence that all this is unnecessary and inefficient.”

OVERSUPPLY, DOUBTFUL QUALITY

hydel_univOf course, our situation is different. We do need more than one university in Kingston. There’s a huge market for tertiary education. But the twin problem of oversupply and doubtful quality can’t be conveniently forgotten. Last week, I was reminded of this issue in a conversation with Dr. Henley Morgan, who was appointed Chancellor of the former Hydel University College in December.

Yes, Hydel does have a Chancellor. As Dr. Morgan explains, “not a ceremonial role as is the custom throughout the Commonwealth university system, but rather the executive role of Instructional Leader, as it is used in the American community college system”. And he made an amusing admission: “It’s funny but 7 out of 10 persons I tell of my latest calling ask if I’ve read your articles on the subject of unregistered institutions and unaccredited courses”.

Dr. Morgan has not only read the articles; he’s taken immediate action. He’s prioritised and expedited the necessary process for Hydel’s registration as a tertiary education institution and hosted the University Council of Jamaica on a site visit. Dr. Morgan brought to my attention the fact that the sign proclaiming Hydel as a university was removed even before his appointment.

Perhaps my sceptical columns persuaded the founder/president, Mrs. Hyacinth Bennett, to set more realistic goals. In any case, I’m glad commonsense has prevailed. And I wish Chancellor Morgan well as he attempts to transform Hydel College into a viable tertiary institution.

NOT SETTLING FOR WAT-LEF

Then there’s another side to the business of oversupply of British universities that we can’t afford to ignore. Many institutions have resorted to exporting their programmes. We, in the Caribbean, are a targeted market. But we have to be careful that we’re not settling for wat-lef. And we do have our own academic programmes that we can export.

UnknownEarlier this month, the 3rd CARIFORUM-EU business forum took place in MoBay. Its purpose was to review economic partnership agreements and, hopefully, increase trade with Europe in three areas of our competitive advantage: agro-processing, music and higher education. I was invited to speak at a roundtable on higher education.

Focusing on the potential of creative industries programmes to transform academic institutions, I drew attention to the accomplishments of the Reggae Studies Unit at the University of the West Indies. Over the last two decades, scores of undergraduate and graduate students have come to the Mona campus from across the world to do research on Jamaican popular music and related cultural forms.

I also highlighted the innovative undergraduate degree programme in Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management that was introduced by the Reggae Studies Unit in 2007. And I talked about the proposal I recently developed, in consultation with several colleagues, to establish a multi-disciplinary, cross-faculty Centre for the Creative Industries and Cultural Enterprise at UWI.

We must acknowledge the relationship between culture, creativity and economic development and use our talents to our own advantage. Or we will remain trapped in debt, constantly dependent on our former colonial masters to feed us with scraps from the table.

Obama Done Know Wa A Gwaan

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

JAMAICA-US-DIPLOMACY-OBAMA-TOWN HALLSo Obama go a youth forum an im greet di massive inna fi wi language. An im big up UWI. An im aks, “Wa a gwaan, Jamaica”? An it sweet nuff a wi. Yeah, man! Obama talk up di ting.   But unu see seh im never talk dat deh talk wen im go a Jamaica House an wen im go meet di govament head dem. Im know wa a gwaan. Fi wi heart language no good enough fi dem deh high-up meeting.

Then chruu mi difend fi wi language, people a run joke wid mi, a aks mi if a mi did teach Obama fi talk Jamaican. Mi? Poor mi, poor gyal! Mi never get fi meet Obama, much less fi a gi im extra lesson. An mi never young enough fi go a di youth forum. By di way, mi wuda love fi know a who pick some a dem deh ‘youth’. Wen mi a watch di forum pon TV, mi see some hard-back, old, old smaddy a try pass fi youth. Mi seh to miself, “Dem must have big links fi get bogus age-paper”! Anyhow, a Jamaica dis. A bandooloo run tings.

Still for all, mi no know how dem deh unconscionable old smaddy no shame fi a tek weh young people seat. Fi dem shame-tree dead, dead, dead. An mi know seh di down-grow ‘youth’ dem a go seh a nutten but bad-mind an grudgeful mek mi a bad-talk dem, chruu mi never have no contact. Mi have conscience. Mi go outa road go watch motorcade pass wen Obama lef UWI fi go a Heroes Circle. Wat a piece a excitement! Fi wi outrider dem inna dem boasy uniform; an di whole heap a secret service guardy dem; an di two Beast dem!

‘WAZ OP WI DAT’?

mothers-tongue_0One a di ting Obama well know a dis: wen yu talk tu people inna fi dem heart language, yu get nuff forward. Mi fren, Prof. Hubert Devonish, send mi dis ya email: “In the whole Obama Jamaica language hoopla, the thing never mentioned is that he is himself a native or near native speaker of Hawaiian Creole (HC)! Check this video in which his ‘deviation’ into HC bears some interesting comparisons with his ‘Wa a gwaan, Jamieka?’ bit.”

Prof. Devonish a one linguist an im a di head a di Jamaica Language Unit a UWI. So im know weh im a talk bout.   Pon di video, President Obama dida gi one speech inna 2012. Im dida talk inna Washington, DC to di Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.   Same time Obama seh im born a Hawai’i, some a di Hawai’an people dem bawl out, “Chee huu”! Im stop braps. An im start laugh. Cau im know weh dem a seh. Dem well glad fi know seh im an dem come from di same place. Dem talk di same language. So hear Obama im, “These Hawaiians here! Waz op wi dat”?

Then music a one next language weh reach people, all wen dem no ketch di lyrics. Look how reggae music gone all over di world! An mi glad fi see seh Obama did go a Bob Marley Museum. Mi ongle sorry seh wen im did go a Heroes Circle im never dis go down a Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey. An mi know seh some people a seh dem no want Merica pardon Garvey becau im never do nutten wrong. Mi no gree wid dem. Merika fi stop tell lie pon Garvey seh im a jinnal an gi wi national hero di honour an rispek im deserve. Dat’s wa up wi dat.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

OBAMA_6So Obama go a yuut fuorom an im griit di masiv ina fi wi langgwij. An im big op UWI. An im aks, “Wa a gwaan, Jamieka”? An it swiit nof a wi. Ye, man! Obama taak op di ting.   Bot unu si se im neva taak dat de taak wen im go a Jamaica House an wen im go miit di govament ed dem. Im nuo wa a gwaan. Fi wi aat langgwij no gud inof fi dem de ai-op miitn.

Den chruu mi difen fi wi langgwij, piipl a ron juok wid mi, a aks mi if a mi did tiich Obama fi taak Jamiekan. Mi? Puor mi, puor gyal! Mi neva get fi miit Obama, moch les fi a gi im ekstra lesn. An mi neva yong inof fi go a di yuut fuorom. Bai di wie, mi wuda lov fi nuo a uu pik som a dem de ‘yuut’. Wen mi a wach di fuorom pan TV, mi si som aad-bak, uol, uol smadi a chrai paas fi yuut. Mi se tu miself, “Dem mos av big lingks fi get buogos iej-piepa”! Eniou, a Jamieka dis. A banduulu ron tingz.

Stil far aal, mi no nuo ou dem de ankanshanebl uol smadi no shiem fi a tek we yong piipl siit. Fi dem shiem-chrii ded, ded, ded. An mi nuo se di dong-gruo ‘yuut’ dem a go se a notn bot bad-main an grojful mek mi a bad-taak dem, chruu mi neva av no kantak. Mi av kanshens. Mi go outa ruod go wach muotakied a paas wen Obama lef UWI fi go a Heroes Circle. Wat a piis a eksaitment! Fi wi outraida dem ina dem buosi yuunifaam; an di uol iip a siikrit sorvis gyaadi dem; an di tuu Biis dem!

‘WAZ OP WI DAT’?

Wan a di ting Obama wel nuo a dis: wen yu taak tu piipl ina fi dem aat langgwij, yu get nof faawad. Mi fren, Prof. Hubert Devonish, sen mi dis ya iimiel: “In the whole Obama Jamaica language hoopla, the thing never mentioned is that he is himself a native or near native speaker of Hawaiian Creole (HC)! Check this video in which his ‘deviation’ into HC bears some interesting comparisons with his ‘Wa a gwaan, Jamieka?’ bit”.

Prof. Devonish a wan linggwis an im a di ed a di Jamieka Langgwij Yuunit a UWI. So im nuo we im a taak bout.   Pan di vidiyo, President Obama dida gi wan spiich ina 2012. Im dida taak ina Washington, DC tu di Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.   Siem taim Obama se im baan a Hawai’i, som a di Hawai’an piipl dem baal out, “Chee huu”! Im stap braps. An im staat laaf. Kaa im nuo we dem a se. Dem wel glad fi nuo se im an dem kom fram di siem plies. Dem taak di siem langwij. So ier Obama im, “These Hawaiians here! Waz op wi dat”?

Den myuuzik a wan neks langgwij we riich piipl, aal wen dem no kech di liriks. Luk ou rege myuuzik gaan aal uova di worl! An mi glad fi si se Obama did go a Bob Marley Museum. Mi ongl sari se wen im did go a Heroes Circle im neva dis go dong a Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey. An mi nuo se som piipl a se dem no waahn Merika paadn Garvey bikaa im neva du notn rang. Mi no grii wid dem. Merika fi tap tel lai pan Garvey se im a jinal an gi wi nashinal iiro di ana an rispek im disorv. Dat’s wa op wi dat.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  OBAMA KNOWS WHAT’S UP

Barack Obama,So Obama went to the youth forum and greeted the massive in our language. And he said, “Big up, UWI”! And he asked, “What’s up, Jamaica”? And lots of us were tickled. Yeah, man! Obama got the language right. But you must have noticed that he didn’t use that language when he went to Jamaica House nor when he went to meet the heads of government. He knows what’s up. Our heart language isn’t good enough for those official meetings.

Then because I defend our language, some people had a little fun at my expense, asking if it was me who taught Obama to talk Jamaican. Me? Hardly likely! I didn’t get to meet Obama, much less to give him a tutorial. And I wasn’t young enough to go to the youth forum. By the way, I would love to know who selected some of those ‘youth’. When I watched the forum on TV, I saw  some rather tough-looking old people trying to pass themselves off as youth. I said to myself, “They must be very well connected to get fake birth certificates”! Anyhow, this is Jamaica. Trickery is the name of the game.

All the same, I don’t know how those unconscionable old people didn’t feel any shame at taking the place of young people. Their conscience is dead, dead, dead. And I know that these over-age ‘youth’ are going to say I’m criticising them out of malice.  It’s just because I didn’t have any contacts.  I have a conscience. I went on the road to watch the motorcade pass when Obama left UWI to go to Heroes Circle. What an excitement! Our outriders in their stylish uniforms; and all of the secret service security guards; and the two Beasts!

‘WAZ OP WI DAT’?

images-1One of the things Obama knows all too well is this: when you talk to people in their heart language, you get lots of positive vibes. My friend, Prof Hubert Devonish, sent me this email: “In the whole Obama Jamaica language hoopla, the thing never mentioned is that he is himself a native or near native speaker of Hawaiian Creole (HC)! Check this video in which his ‘deviation’ into HC bears some interesting comparisons with his ‘Wa a gwaan, Jamieka?’ bit.”

Prof Devonish is a  linguist and he’s the head of the Jamaican Language Unit at UWI. So he knows what he’s talking about. The video shows President Obama giving a speech in 2012 in Washington, DC to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. As soon as Obama said he was born in Hawai’i, some of the Hawai’ians shouted out, “Chee huu”! He stopped in his tracks.  And he started to laugh. Because he knew what they were saying. They were excited because they were all from the same place. They spoke the same language. And here’s how Obama responded, “These Hawai’ians here! Waz op wi dat”?

Then music is another language that touches people, even when they don’t catch the lyrics. Just think about how reggae music has gone all over the world! And I’m glad Obama visited the Bob Marley Museum. I’m just sorry that when he went to Heroes Circle he didn’t go down to Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey. And I know that some people are saying they don’t want the US to pardon Garvey because he committed no crime. I don’t agree with them. The US needs to stop perpetuating the lie that Garvey was a con artist and give our national hero the honour and respect he deserve. That’s what’s  up with that.

Big Up Dr Zuma and Mr Obama!

Dr Zuma

Dr Nkosazana Zuma

Last Thursday, the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies hosted two distinguished visitors. Yes, two! Not just United States President Mr Barack Obama. A couple of hours after his uplifting town hall meeting, another speaker of equal stature, Dr Nkosazana Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), delivered the 8th Lucille Mathurin Mair public lecture.

The first woman to chair the AUC, Dr Zuma has broken barriers of gender that seemed as insurmountable as the stumbling blocks of race that have been put in Mr Obama’s path. I will never forget the euphoria of attending the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. On a very cold January morning, I stood in line with hundreds of others for more than two hours just to get on a train to the Capitol.

But I almost turned back when the train got more and more crowded as we approached Washington, D.C. My sister, Donnette, had to remind me that I’d come all the way from Jamaica for the inauguration and couldn’t miss it. When we got to the Capitol, I was glad I hadn’t given up. To be part of that massive crowd on that historic occasion was truly awesome.

I felt a similar sense of awe as I heard Dr Zuma tell her heroic story of the struggle for gender equity on the African continent. As the African Union website notes, “She was born on 27 January 1949 in KwaZulu-Natal, a time when black women’s career expectations did not go beyond domestic work”.

As a medical student in South Africa, this politically engaged young woman became an underground member of the African National Congress. In 1976, she went into exile in the UK where she completed her degree. On her return to South Africa, Dr Zuma was appointed as minister of health and introduced reforms that made basic healthcare free. In the spirit of much later Obamacare! Dr Zuma also served as minister of foreign affairs and minister of home affairs.

SEMAJ TAKING BETS

Quite early in her lecture, Dr. Zuma used the vivid image of the hoe to symbolise the difficulty of life for many women on the African continent.Women farmers have long been complaining that the backbreaking work of digging the ground with a hoe makes them age rather quickly. A woman of 40 begins to look like 60.

By the way, according to Dr. Leahcim Semaj, this prematurely aged woman would definitely have to stay in her lane. No ‘ageable’ man is going to want her. Then would you believe that Dr. Semaj is taking bets on his Mind Spa blog that no ‘ageable’ man is going to look me? “The bird will soon learn” is how he puts it. What a prekeh!

https://thesemajmindspa.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/maturing-in-our-relationships-as-we-age-the-bird-will-soon-learn/

Seriously, though, the AUC has make a commitment to ensure that women farmers have access to new technology that will make their lives far easier.

Womenintechnology-templateOne of the big issues Dr Zuma addressed was the effectiveness of quotas in increasing the number of women in representational politics. At a “Phenomenal Women” breakfast on Friday, she told the amusing story of how the AUC handled negative responses to the decision that each of the five regions of the Union should send two representatives, one male, the other female, to the Commission.

Only two regions complied. The other three claimed they could not find any qualified women. They were told that their quota of women would be given to other regions. And they would just have to explain to their constituents why they couldn’t find appropriate female representatives. All of a sudden, suitable women appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

BOY/GIRL EQUITY

Dr. Zuma also settled the non-issue of “token” women. Some pompous women, opposed to the quota system, keep saying they don’t want to be seen as “token” women. But, as Dr. Zuma put it, “quotas and merit are not mutually exclusive”. Quotas force men to acknowledge the existence of qualified women who are routinely overlooked for leadership positions.

This indisputable affirmation of the value of quotas reminded me of the easy way in which Mr Obama applied the principle of gender equity in his fielding of questions at the town hall meeting. Simple alternation: boy/girl. But this is not the usual practice in the ‘real’ world of male domination! Men don’t usually like to share power.
imagesIf only we could apply this boy/girl system in all areas of public life. At the University of the West Indies, for example, we could institute the principle of quotas to ensure gender equity. Boy Chancellor, followed by girl Chancellor; boy Vice-chancellor, girl Vice-chancellor. On and on, all the way up and down the University’s hierarchical systems. And we could put in place term limits. So more people would get the opportunity to provide leadership.

Dr Zuma’s visit has received very little coverage in the local media. She has been overshadowed by Mr Obama. But for those of us who knew she was here, her presence has been a most welcome affirmation of woman power. Twenty years after the Fourth World Conference on Women, convened in Beijing, the African Union has declared 2015 as the African Year of Women. We in the Diaspora must join forces with women on the continent to claim our full of quota of rights.

Who’s Stuck in Dr Semaj’s Boxes?

unimaginative_by_xrniborI got so many amusing responses to my column, “Mi No Want No Woman Look Mi”, published on March 22. It’s amazing how a hot headline can motivate people to read Jamaican. If I’d even used only the ‘prapa-prapa’ writing system, that wouldn’t have stopped too many readers from trying to figure out what the column was about.

One of the first emails came from an unimaginative man: “Can you please define ageable genkleman (age group)? I fit all other criteria as stipulated in your article. Your response to my question will let me know if I have a chance:=)”. He was not too happy with my answer: “Remember, age is just a number. But you also need a recommendation from your last woman”.

That’s not an original line. It’s from a vintage calypso:

“She tell me to bring a letter from mi last woman

With she signature stating why we done

Bring two passport picture of the woman to

Ah want to know how much children weh she have for you”.

It wasn’t the letter of recommendation that bothered my would-be suitor.   It was my imprecision about ‘ageable': “You contradict yourself by saying that age is just a number. Your article clearly spoke about an ‘age-able man’”. Yu see mi dying trial! The man picking quarrel with mi already an mi an im no deh. That was the end of that.

‘DI RIGHT SMADDY’

A rather clever man made his “application fi hart occupancy” in Jamaican. And he had no difficulty understanding ‘ageable’. After giving some lovely compliments, he proceeded “to di meat a di matta”, as he put it: “mi a di right smaddy fi look yu. Self praise really anuh good recommendation but mi tink mi a one ‘nice, ageable genkleman’. Mi anuh young bwoy nar old man cau mi a jus fifty-four even dou mi easily look thirty-four.

“Mi did marry one time but mi fine out seh di ooman a Delilah genaration an mi ave fi tek weh miself fast, fast. Mi bun fish-tail wicked so yuh woan ave nuh concern deh so.

images“Mi feel mi can read an write well cau a intallect dem call mi. A one teacha gi mi di name wen mi did deh a primary school because she seh me always a read wen all the odder pickney dem a play. All a mi teeth dem inna mi mout an none a dem nuh ratten. Mi feel mi well qualify fi de position. Please shortlist me an sen mi a email”.

I had to laugh though I wasn’t so happy about the fish-tail burning. A ‘real’ man doesn’t have to call down hellfire on gay men to prove he’s not one of them. But this man did give a good account of himself so I shortlisted him and sent an email. Incidentally, the condition of one’s teeth is a good indicator of overall health. And literacy is a sign of access to a world of books.

SEX FANTASIES

The most elaborate response to my column came from a psychologist, Dr. Leahcim Semaj. He was definitely not putting in an application for my hand or any other body part. In fact, he was casting me into outer darkness – a lonely place of total manlessness. In a guest column published last Sunday, Dr. Semaj prophesied that I would have “a long wait” for a suitable man. Bright!

By the way, I hadn’t said in my column that I was looking man. I was simply stating the desirable qualities of any man who might want to look me. There’s a difference. Mi no want no young boy fi work out mi soul case. An no old man fi go dead pon mi. Dr. Semaj concluded that my desire for an ‘ageable’ man was a sexual fantasy that wasn’t likely to be fulfilled.

The headline of his column was intriguing: “Ageing And Lovesick? Don’t Chase Sex Fantasies”. But what is sex without fantasies? Especially if you’re stuck with a boring partner who is trying to box you in! To be fair to Dr. Semaj, that was not his headline. It was the editor’s. But it did capture the essence of his argument.

imagesThe goodly psychologist constructed some neat little boxes in which he tried to trap young, middle-aged and old people. I was amused to see that, with typical male vanity, Dr. Semaj proposed that women age faster than men. So young boy ends at 35 years of age; but young woman ends at 30. The ‘ageable’ man ranges from 35+ to 50. The female equivalent starts at 30+ and pops down at 45. The old man starts at 50+ and, presumably, keeps going. It’s all over for the old woman at 45.

Dr. Semaj clearly does not take into account the sex appeal of the ‘nice big-woman’. That’s how I was greeted last week by a young-boy ‘ductor leaning out of a Coaster bus. And Dr. Semaj doesn’t distinguish between biological age and chronological age. People age at different rates depending on how well they take care of their teeth.

Dr. Semaj insists that people must ‘stay in dem lane’. Young with young; middle-aged with middle-aged; old with old. Nothing no go so. Sexual desire is unruly. It makes people veer out of lanes.   It’s only Dr. Semaj who’s stuck in his little box.

Bob Marley’s Face At Large

bob-marley-legend-the-best-of-delanteraIn his song “Bad Card”, Bob Marley boasted, “dem a go tired fi see mi face”. Of course, this mocking threat did not mean that Marley was going to be tired of his own popularity. The very opposite! Like many a Jamaican star boy, Bob was throwing words, tauntingly declaring the longevity of not only his image but, more importantly, his mission: “Can’t get mi out of the race”. Marley was predicting that his legacy would endure.

Bob’s ironic prophecy has certainly been fulfilled.  Seventy years after his birth, the power of the mass media – both old and new – has magnified Marley’s image incalculably. Album covers, calendars, billboards, teeshirts, coins, stamps, luxurious coffee table books and documentaries all portray the many faces of Bob Marley: sensual, mystical, playful, contemplative, withdrawn, angry, spirit dancer, freedom fighter, duppy conqueror!

The Bob Marley Estate cannot possibly police the use of the reggae icon’s image across the globe without retaining a veritable army of intellectual property lawyers. In any case, the Estate is itself efficiently exploiting Marley’s image. Late last year, it was announced that the Tuff Gong was going to be the face of a new international ganja brand. The story was carried widely in the international media.

A November 14, 2014 article, posted on the BBC’s Latin America and Caribbean website, reported that:   “The family of the late Jamaican reggae artist, Bob Marley has launched what they describe as the world’s first global cannabis brand. It will be called Marley Natural and be used to sell cannabis-infused lotions, creams and various accessories.

1426115042438“The new brand is being developed with Privateer Holdings based in Washington state, stressing the life and legacy of Jamaica’s greatest cultural export”. I couldn’t help remembering that a privateer is “an armed ship owned and officered by private individuals holding a government commission and authorized for use in war, especially in the capture of enemy merchant shipping.”

In a flash of uncensored free association, the opening lines of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” came to me subversively: “Old pirates yes they rob I/ Sold I to the merchant ships”. But I don’t suppose the Marley Estate would appreciate this mischievous irony.

According to that BBC article, “Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella Marley said her father would welcome the move. ‘My dad would be so happy to see people understanding the healing power of the herb’”. Not quite the same as exploiting Marley’s image, I don’t think.

JAMAICA IN MEXICO

unnamed-2-e1423469546908Last month, a major exhibition of Bob Marley posters opened in Mexico City. The venue was not a conventional art gallery. It was the Jamaica metro station, one of the busiest in the system with over a million commuters every day. The posters were selected from the collection of Marley entries in the International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC), co-organised by the Jamaican graphic artist Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson and the Greek graphic designer Maria Papaefstathiou.

Since its inception in 2012, the IRPC has become a powerful visual medium for the spread of Jamaican popular culture. It has inspired graphic artists from across the world to create vibrant images that leap across sensory boundaries:  reggae music from sound to sight.

The vivid posters are both global and local. All the artists pay tribute to the Jamaican roots of reggae music.  But they also acknowledge the far-reaching branches of ‘roots’ culture.   They imagine the story of reggae in new ways that display their own cultural values and aesthetic practices.

Bob Marley has been a favourite subject in all three years of the contest. He is the single most popular image. Of course, there is Marley’s endlessly reinterpreted face. But other posters use the singer’s words and related images.

In the 2012 contest, there were 9 Bob Marley posters in the top 100 entries. In 2013 there were 14; and in 2014, there were 23. The figures for the other 900 or so posters each year were not easily retrievable. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

REGGAE IN PORTUGUESE PRISONS

Rogério-Araujo

Rogério Araujo, Portugal

Bob Marley’s global appeal is beautifully illustrated in this report on the Contest’s website: “In 2014, the IRPC received an email from the General Directorate of Rehabilitation and Prison Services of the Ministry of Justice of Portugal (http://www.dgsp.mj.pt), communicating their interest in participating in the 2014 International Reggae Poster Contest. . . .

“The IRPC was delighted to support the Directorate in this creative mission in the area of cultural and artistic activities, and to implement this as an instrument of prison rehabilitation. . . . All eight prisons were encouraged to participate in the contest: A total of 20 posters were designed and submitted by 26 inmates. . . .

“‘Many of the prisoners are reggae enthusiasts,’ says the director of one of the prisons. He also stated, ‘The music of Bob Marley is favored highly among the prisoners in the institutions. They see the message from Bob as a message of hope and inspiration to help them while they are incarcerated’”.

Bob Marley has given the world an everlasting legacy of rebellious creativity. Visual artists will never get tired of imprinting on his face their brilliant interpretations of his life and legacy. Dem naa go draw no bad card.  Rogério-Araujo