I want to congratulate you for publishing the two-part article “The education of children of African origin” in your Express Newspaper dated 24th and 25th January, 2020. I also want to congratulate the author of the article and more so the 23 distinguished men and women of letters that have endorsed this statement. It definitely points to the reality that there is no dearth of African professionals in this society, all of whom are known commentators on the affairs of this nation, some as far back as the 1960s.
This is the crux of our problem. Are we ready to walk the path of self-sacrifice or have we settled to writing a column in a newspaper or appearing in talk shows in radio and TV? For example, I would have loved to hear that in Tobago, Dr. Winfred James conducts a reading class for Tobagonians in Roxborough or Professor Theodore Lewis with a similar project in the Beetham. What is being displayed in this article is empty rhetoric about black failure in education while nothing concrete is being implemented!
What about the non-black children who are failing? Why have their concerns not addressed? Poverty abounds in the eastern counties where mainly agricultural communities have suffered by government’s neglect of agriculture. These rural communities have illiterates in large numbers but this does not seem to catch the attention of the persons associated with this article.
The Creole State has been more focused on denying Indians an education. In the 1950s only Indians who had converted to Christianity had access to education. More than 80% of the Indian population was illiterate. That did not raise an alarm among the educated Creoles. Instead, Indians were scorned and abused for not being able to read. In 1946 when adult suffrage was being granted, there was an organized group of educated Creoles that campaigned for Indians to be denied the franchise with the argument that they cannot read and write in the English Language.
But the worst enemy of Indian progress in this country-The Peoples National Movement- has worked steadfastly and acrimoniously to ridicule and deny Indians education. Dr. Eric Williams, in his famous ‘hostile and recalcitrant’ speech in Woodford Square after losing the Local Government Elections of 1959 spoke of the nation being swamped by illiteracy, all in reference to the poor Indians who did not vote for the PNM.
Dr. Eric Williams’ response to this “illiteracy” among Indians was not to encourage the building of schools. Instead, he denied the opening of several Hindu schools that were completed and ready for opening. Today we are witnessing the revisiting of that policy by the PNM under the Honourable Dr. Keith Rowley by his failure to hand over the Ramai Trace and Reform Hindu schools to the SDMS for completion despite repeated requests from the Maha Sabha. One should never forget that under Patrick Manning the children of Biche were denied a school on the spurious allegation of gas leaks. Since the school was opened in 2010 by the PP Government there has been no incidents of gas leaks! And the opening of the South Campus in Debe! Why has works stopped on this much needed institution? May be the author of the article and the 23 distinguished scholars should make a statement on this breach of fundamental right to an education!
I am happy that these professionals can raise this crisis in black education. However, when other ethnic or racial imbalances are raised these are usually shouted down. For example, when Nizam Mohammed as Chairman of the Police Commission expressed concerns about few Indians in the top ranks of the Police Service, he was shouted down and dismissed by President Max Richards. Similar concerns were raised by attorney at law Israel Khan and there was a similar hostile reaction rather than any genuine effort to debate and discuss the issue.
Are Indians now going to sound alarm about their lack of representation in the ranks of Public Service, State enterprises including the Central Bank and UTC? While there is the view that blacks are failing in education, they nonetheless continue to be promoted into high positions in the public sector. This is a paradox that must be addressed and not swept under the carpet.
In conclusion, the current crisis in education among blacks in this country is a result of privilege and not a lack of opportunity. Gerard Besson in his book “The Cult of the Will” has argued that the objective of Dr. Williams’ governance was to redress the historical imbalance suffered by blacks during slavery and colonialism. This policy of entitlement is manifested in the employment practices of state bodies, the Police and Defense Forces, the Civil Service and the wanton waste of taxpayers’ moneys in so-called national culture.
Interestingly, the schools that have been identified as failing are mainly Catholic, Anglican and Government. Also of interest is that the failing schools are located mainly in Port of Spain, St George East and Port of Spain. Can it be concluded that our black educational institutions, black educators and black homes are failing their black children with a black government failing to put into effect corrective measures?