Scholarship award time has come again in Trinidad and the black community is in the usual agony. Indian students have taken the lion’s share of the scholarships once more.
But nobody on the black side is asking why their kids are being consistently outclassed by the Indians. All they know is that they hate it and don’t seem able to change it. None on the Indian side are asking the same question but they are all quietly rejoicing.
Somebody has to step in, and unfortunately that would be me.
Off the bat, I say it can’t be that the Indians are more intelligent than the blacks, that they have more money, that they have better families, that they go to better schools, that they bribe the teachers. Many Indians live in similar environments as the blacks, their children go to the same scholarship producing schools. In short, Indians don’t seem to have any built in advantages.
So is it that the black kids as a group have any built in disadvantages? The answer would be yes.
Black school children as a group are LESS motivated to do well in school, get the passes and the scholarships than the Indian children.
They see two generations of parents and grandparents who have been able to get good government paid jobs, housing, the good life package WITHOUT strong academic qualifications from schools. For more than 60 years the black party that has dominated politics and administration of treasury funds has handed their supporters the good life with only one condition- that they vote PNM on election day.
The black children are saying plainly why bust your brain to do well in school when you don’t have to? The government will give you the good life whether you pass or fail!
The Indian kids have no such guarantees. They know they have no ticket to the good life from a friendly government so bust brain they must to get their chance. Those Indian kids with wealthy parents in good jobs or business know first hand how the parents had to work to get there. Indian kids whose parents are not well off know what they have to do to get ahead in life. Nobody is doing them any favours when they get out of school.
That is the lesson, in a nutshell. There’s proof, taken from the experience of the oldies whose memories go back before 1956.
Old fools like me remember well that in the colonial days of the thirties to the fifties in Trinidad black students were winning way more of the scholarships and doing notably better in primary and secondary schools than the Indians. Notable achievers like Eric Williams, Ellis Clarke, Trevor McDonald, CLR James, Hugh Wooding, Karl Hudson Phillips were part of a whole host of brilliant black scholars and achievers by merit.
These blacks clearly outclassed the Indians, who for the most part were illiterate in that time, had few or no decent schools in their rural area villages and towns.
Two notable things happened in the fifties.
For the Indians it was the building of dozens of Hindu schools for the neglected Hindu children and the entry of the largest section of the Indians into the education system.
For the blacks it was the victory of their party the PNM in the 1956 general election and the hiring of tens of thousands of black supporters in the government paid civil service, utilities, state enterprises, police, army and DEWD make work jobs. The PNM also built many schools for both the black and Indian areas.
Therein hangs a tale. The black population was now guaranteed a government paid good life without hard work or entry qualifications. Their children took note and the parade of black academic achievers petered out.
The Indians welcomed the schools as their ladder upward, their children took the academic baton and ran hard with it. They are still running hard today.
Let me say in closing that my explanation does not take into account exceptions on all sides. Not all black kids are doing poorly in schools and there is still a significant group of black achievers. Not all Indians are brilliant achievers and there is a large group who are just mediocre or failing in schools.
Solutions to this academic hot potato are beyond the scope of this column at this time.