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MONDAY MAN – Mission to propel education forward

Marlon Madden

MONDAY MAN – Mission to propel education forward

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He never stops working.As minister of Education and Human Resources, Ronald Jones, 52, has the huge and overall responsibility to develop education in the country. He said he was constantly reading and was always trying to find a way to make the education system better.Jones said the main aim of his ministry was to ensure that quality education continues, that there was productivity at all levels in the education system, and that “all parties” were satisfied. However, he explained it is even more than that as there were “micro” things he personally had to pay attention to.“I have to interface at the level of cabinet on behalf of the portfolio. So I would take programmes, policies and new ideas and initiative for support and to sign off on. We also have outreach as part of my agenda. I am called by schools to address them on a whole lot of issues. I might also be called on by other stakeholders.“As minister I read from the heading to the signature on all the minutes coming from the secondary schools, board of management, colleges and UWI, the student revolving loan fund, among others that fall under that domain. I also represent the ministry where there are policy implementations. These include issues raised by various bodies, including UNESCO, CARICOM and other regional and international bodies,” explained Jones.He described his job as “varied and dynamic from day to day”. In fact, this Monday Man said he was constantly working to have an education system that is effective, efficient, and functions in the best interest of all Barbadians who want to have access to a good standard of education.Jones grew up in the tenantry system in the Wilcox, Christ Church community were he attended the St Bartholomews Boys’ School. He then went on to Washington High which was located at Strathclyde Drive, Bank Hall. He then attended Barbados Community College while teaching, and later Erdiston Teacher’s Training College.He moved on to further his studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill where he did a master’s in history and sociology.But his education did not stop there. This educator went to the University of London where he did studies in education and administration.Jones is the second of eight children, three girls and five boys.  He said he spent most of his life in church growing up in the Wesleyan faith but does not “tie” himself to one church. “I try to visit and have fellowship across the constituency.”The educator said he got his motivation from the fact that he was providing a “service which will continue to keep Barbados on the educational cusp”.He said before he was minister he would seek to initiate new solutions to keep “propelling” education forward and he was always thinking about “giving back” as an individual.“Generally it is to see a transformation in the lives of people through education and training. As a beneficiary of education that might be relatively free to the client, I think we have a duty to give back, and I don’t necessarily give back as minister,” he said.The minister of Education said he got satisfaction when there was “meaningful change” in the lives of young people as they completed the various levels in the education system.“I have to work hard and sometimes give painfully. But in giving painfully there is the satisfaction that the lives of people are being transformed. I have seen people call me back or write and said ‘thank you for making a difference in my life through whatever you said to me, the encouragement and resources you provide’,” said Jones.He admitted that there were a few challenges that he encountered while carrying out his duties. One such challenge, he said, was to get people to understand the importance of carefully “managing” the resources provided for them.“I dont think that message has reached the ears of everybody. Some people do not take the time to listen although they might be hearing. There is also the challenge of labour relations and indiscipline,” said Jones.He said he wanted to see more young people focused on getting a good education and he would like teachers to see each student as a “unique learner”. “I have not yet grown comfortable with the slow pace of change. Some are happening but the governmental system works slowly,” said Jones.He agreed that sometimes he could be quite outspoken but he was more concerned about speaking out about issues that he felt needed to be addressed.“I work very calmly. I reflect two selves; a private and a public self. Sometimes my gentle tone becomes a bit more robust and people listen to the robust tone rather than the content. Sometimes when I speak, the passion emerges and I might retreat and reflect . . . I want persons to reliase that I am not a caustic, antagonistic individual but there is an urgency for change for the better. if I offered a criticism, it is not to deprecate or let anyone feel they are not worthy but is to let them realise they can make a difference,” he cautioned.When he is not busy dealing with the education affairs of the country or making a speech, Jones can be found reading a novel, watching a movie or playing a computer-generated game for relaxation.He said he was involved in almost all the clubs at secondary school and still gives of his time in voluntary groups.Jones said he would love to see more young people “grasping” every opportunity that was positive, and that would give them the opportunity to improve their intellect, knowledge and learning.“Young people need to give. In giving they are learning and in learning they are changing lives. It also detracts from the use of negative time,” advised Jones.He was once married and while he did not have any children “in the marriage environment”, Jones said: “there are young people who are extremely close to me. I have a plethora of god-children”.He said he was now focused on the work he did. He taught for about 27 years and has received a number of awards from schools he taught at and other awards from four organisations for his contribution to education over the years.