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I am honored that I was chosen to lead KCOBA USA Inc. at this critical time in the school’s history. I did not arrive at KC by accident. It was always the wish of my parents. While my parents were not Anglicans or educated folks they were aware of Bishop Gibson and his commitment to the youth of Jamaica. They felt, particularly my father, that attending KC would mature me early and allow me to fulfill whatever destiny God had in store for me and that in the years to come I would enlarge whatever footprints he had managed to leave. His dream for me was not unique. It is what I hold for my children today and no doubt what you hold for yours.
Some 43 years after my initial arrival at the College you must know that I have never left. The passion that I hold for our beloved alma mater has never been greater. The challenge we face has never been more compelling. The solutions have never been clearer. Our capacity to respond to these problems has never been greater. However, conditions at Kingston College continue to deteriorate. Local olds boys, steep in nostalgia seem oblivious or resigned to the situation. Visiting old boys face an initial shock during their brief stop-over then shake it off even before they become airborne. When you choose to overstay as I have and look behind the curtains you realize that there is some truth to the scripture found in James 5:16 that “the prayer…of the righteous …availeth much…” KC is held together by prayer or crazy glue.
There are few male teachers among a staff of some one hundred and thirty guiding one thousand nine hundred boys. Among the difficulties arising from this absence is a lack of fear and subsequent indiscipline among even our youngest boys. There are obvious heroines on both campuses, a couple of whom are in attendance tonight, Opal Branche and Maureen Lewis, but that fear factor you and I may have encountered at school, from a Crick or Henry that I can kick your butt, is obviously missing. The mentoring program that this chapter has encouraged and the local chapter sponsors, has obviously not yet had the intended effect. Much of the problem the school faces emanates from this basic fact, and this situation is further compounded by the lack of a principal to lead the organization.
It is my hope that Stephen Vascianne’s appointment as Chairman of the school’s board will stem the tide of the revolving door that currently exist with the principal position. Our campuses are noisy, filthy, as in language and trash, and mediocrity unfortunately is the order of the day. If this is to be reversed it has to start at the head by restoring discipline and respect for others. Winning the Schools’ Challenge Quiz competition, driven by five highly motivated students and a cadre of dedicated old boys or performing well at the track and field championship gives those of us viewing the school from a distance, a false sense of security.
The truth is that these rays of light are completely eclipsed by the dismal conditions existing at KC. The fancy new bus unveiled at the start of 2000 is still the only mode of transportation here, transportation for the carpenter purchasing lumber, the messenger going to the bank or the post office or the school teams journeying to Wolmer’s. Students who by virtue of their performance should be in the six forms are scattered at schools throughout the corporate area. Incredibly, there are less classrooms at KC now than there was in the 1970s.The same can be said for the science labs, library, canteen, playing field and overall infra-structure. Yet we remain the most vocal and passionate, akin to empty barrels making the most noise. .
At this critical time the need for cooperation between all the stakeholders of Kingston College has never been more urgent. The selection of a new Principal presents a great opportunity for all, meaning the church, the board, members of staff, students and alumni to unite around choosing someone who will lead the Kingston College family from our current position to becoming the envy of all secondary institutions in Jamaica. The cohort of boys entering at grade 7 has some of the highest GSAT passes in the country, and yet not all our boys sit external exams by the time they get to grade 11. We should no longer parade behind a façade of doing well in CSEC, when we are only entering students who it has been determined will do well in exams. This system punishes the weaker students, making failure of many, who if guided properly, would succeed. Whereas other schools are producing Rhode Scholars with regularity, the last Kingston College old boy to achieve this high honor is the current and newly minted chairman of board, 1976 graduate, Stephen Vasciannie.
As I prepare to hand over leadership of this association into more capable hands I would like to remind the incoming board that goals are met and challenges overcome by fixity of purpose and unyielding determination. Our leadership of the Nutrition Program, the Scholarship Program and the Baxter Math Club must continue to grow. Our contributions have been significant but it pales in light of the enormity of the problems. Gentlemen, our commitment to the development of the physical plant must not waiver.
Finally, tonight this association recognizes the contribution of six prominent citizens of Jamaica. Four of them have entertained audiences all over the world. In fact, when I spoke to Howard Barrett some months ago his list of vocal credits sounded much like the last hour’s performance of our Scholarship Dance. Patricia Chin is more responsible than any one for the proliferation of reggae music worldwide. Maureen Lewis has spent over thirty years at KC teaching, mentoring and guiding young lives. We welcome you this evening to our 28th Annual Reunion and Awards Banquet and congratulate you for your service to Kingston College and Jamaica. On behalf of old boys everywhere I congratulate you and wish for you long live, good health, continued success and God’s richest blessing.