By Kamal Persad
(continues from Ethnic Imbalance in the Professions)
Dr. Bartholomew has provided answers to the questions he himself has posed in his lengthy commentary on the decline of the Afro-Trinidadian professionals and consequent ethnic imbalance between Indian and African professionals in Trinidad. Dealing with the Faculty of Medicine of the University of the West Indies he asked: What has caused this decline in that student population? Is it that they are not applying to medical school? Is it that, generally speaking, they cannot afford the high fees demanded for entry into the school? Is it that they are not performing well in the A-Levels as in the past? Is it a combination of all these or are there other compoundable or confounded factors?” He provided some answers to his questions and made some observations related to the Afro-Trinidadian community. The problems, he analysed, lay within the Afro-Trinidadian community itself.
He linked the decline of the Afro-Trinidadian professional class to educational failure and connected this with the failing black family unit: “If indeed poor performance in the primary and secondary school is one factor in the decline of the Afro-Trinidadian professionals, one of the reasons must lie in the lap of the increasing failing family unit in that population…we witness this…from the history of our young HIV/AIDS patients.” The crisis in the Afro-Trinidadian family, single parent, poor family environment, indiscipline among young blacks and distorted values, are listed as contributing to this crisis: “The phenomenon of the single parent is also increasing and in many instances not only do they not have the financial means to support their children, but in addition, there is an ever increasing breakdown in parental discipline (even in double-parent families, especially in the hedonistic and fickle environment to which today’s youths are exposed. In fact, in some circles, to be studious and proper in behaviour is to be a “nerd.”) He added that “this is mainly an Afro-Trinidadian characteristic…”
Dr. Bartholomew supported his position by a reference to statements made by the PNM Government Minister of Housing Dr. Keith Rowley, carried in the Guardian (November, 11, 2005) dealing with crime situation in the country: Rowley Fed Up with senseless Killing: Bad Parenting At Root of Problem” Minister Rowley had stated that “the breakdown in values sometimes starts in the home” and this is due to failure of proper parenting. Dr. Bartholomew stated that “it also includes educational decline.” This crisis in the Afro-Trinidadian family structure is connected to the deadly crime wave in the country and also lined to the “educational decline” among black students.
He is particularly critical of Carnival of recent times labelling it as a “great obstacle to academic advancement for young people.”- the all-year round Carnival fete, “kiddies street carnival,” and Carnival in schools and the amount of time taken up with this activity, the socialization of children into thus type of Carnival culture. He is calling for public debate on this issue:
But in my opinion, another great obstacle to academic advancement for some young people is the Carnival “excess” of today. I am referring to the Carnival of recent times. The “season” as it is called, now begins in November…In fact, the Carnival of yesteryear, which came to an abrupt end on Ash Wednesday, is now never “never out of season.” There is only a little lull in between. But there is an interesting irony in that whereas the girls today dominate the scholarships, a different cadre of women dominate the carnival bacchanal with their scanty costumes (Brazilian style), devoid of creative imagination and artistic innovation and accompanied by a degenerated and frenzied jump and wave musical (?) background “all day, all night.” However, some do go to the beaches “shifting sand.”
He singled out the participation of young children and the involvement of their schools in this activity:
But above all, I have always been disturbed over the establishment of the “kiddies street carnival” many years ago. Indeed, it is not simply a Saturday pageant. It starts at the beginning of the school term in January with the preoccupation and preparation for the various bands, which cannot but distract many children from their studies. It is moreover an early endorsement and inculcation of a “carnival mentality” which Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew so rightly criticized many years ago. Even Eric Williams, noted for his curt retorts, kept silent, as if to say: “guilty Mr. Prime Minister!” It is mainly an Afro-Trinidadian thing. And that tells a story. It is a preoccupation which, I am sure you will not find in the Hindu schools.
Dr. Bartholomew commented on the “kiddies street carnival” among selected primary schools. He is of course, unaware, that since the mid-seventies, the Ministry of Education fostered the hosting of Carnival activities in schools. Carnival activities are now an entrenched part of schools’ calendar of activities.
He called for a national debate on Carnival culture in the country:
In fact, I think the time is right for a public debate with an intelligent and mature panel to argue whether, overall, the Carnival, as it is today, is a positive or negative factor in the life of Trinidad and Tobago. Of course, it is of cultural significance that over the past few decades, the only statues erected in this island are those of Aldwyn Roberts and Slinger Francisco. That too tells a story.
One may go further and suggest that what is required is a national debate on the issues raised by Dr. Barth and not just limited the debate to the positives and negatives of Carnival. In fact, in the second part of his lengthy commentary the Express choose to put as the heading “Black Man Come Out To Party,” the theme of a popular Black Stalin calypso.
Of the causal factors identified by Dr. Bartholomew as contributing to the fall of the black professional class such as declining educational standards, failing family structures and problems associated with single family households, indiscipline among black youths, the hedonistic environment, absence of proper values and proper socialization of young people by their parents, and the Carnival culture of fete all year round, all of these can be addressed by and within the Afro-Trinidadian community. Prof. Bartholomew did not clearly state how these issues have to be addressed and by whom, and how measures as solutions are to be implemented. In fact, Prof. Bartholomew has not stated anything that is not current knowledge and which are articulated in the Press.
( to be continued)