Ac­tion needed to tackle ills

COM­MENT

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - The Courts - By RALPH JEMMOTT

A CALLER TO BRASS TACKS on Wed­nes­day, Au­gust 23, stated that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s speeches of­ten sounded “like po­etry in mo­tion”. Not sure if that is a good or a bad thing. Thank­fully the Min­is­ter of Cul­ture af­firmed a stricter code of puni­tive sen­tenc­ing.

Bar­ba­dos must not be­come Dudus Coke coun­try; it is too small. The Front Page of the MID­WEEK NA­TION of Au­gust 23 read Out­siders: Gall Hill Folk Say Gun Vi­o­lence Is Im­ported. The ques­tion is, im­ported from where? Gall Hill is not far from Silver Hill, which is not far from Brit­tons Hill, which is not far from Bar­ba­rees Hill, which is not far from Dea­cons and Black Rock. Bar­ba­dos is not Ja­maica where Mon­tego Bay is some dis­tance from Ocho Rios and even fur­ther from Port­land. In Bar­ba­dos, we are all vul­ner­a­ble.

Two cour­ses of ac­tion must be un­der­taken soon and ef­fec­tively. One is im­me­di­ate, the other more long term. Firstly, the func­tions of the Bar­ba­dos ju­di­cial sys­tem must be sys­tem­i­cally im­proved. The high­est court in the re­gion has in­dicted the fail­ings of the Bar­ba­dian court sys­tem. For­mer Justice Car­lyle Greaves in­di­cated that he has some ex­per­tise in the mat­ter. Hear him out. Hope­fully, the in­tel­lect is there and con­trary to what I’m told, the prin­ci­pals in­volved do in fact care. One is sad­dened when one hears that “de fel­las (who­ever de fel­las are) doan care”.

As for the sec­ond course of ac­tion, we must sub­stan­tively re­ori­ent our school sys­tem away from the his­tor­i­cal aca­demic fo­cus. The new fo­cus must be on tech­ni­cal and vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion with some lib­eral in­puts that work to­wards pos­i­tive so­cial­i­sa­tion, that seek to teach the stu­dent how “to be”, in the best sense of “be­ing”. R.V. Goodridge ob­served that schools teach val­ues by the stan­dards they up­hold. The fo­cus group must be on boys and girls who are not aca­dem­i­cally book­ishly in­clined, who may not by age 16 sat­isfy the re­quire­ment of CXC/CSEC.

A lot has been said about how the Bar­ba­dian school­ing sys­tem is fail­ing chil­dren. There is one group that Bar­ba­dian for­mal school­ing has con­sis­tently failed. That is of­ten the poor, largely black (given the de­mo­graph­ics) work­ing class, non-aca­demic child. This is not un­com­mon in highly strat­i­fied cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­eties where aca­demic abil­i­ties and stud­ies are priv­i­leged over other forms of in­tel­li­gence and pur­suits.

Over the past 50 years, we have un­der­stand­ably poured a lot of money into sec­ondary and univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion that has ben­e­fited the so-called brighter chil­dren. Less at­ten­tion has been paid to com­pen­satory school­ing for the less able in the pri­mary sys­tem, and tech­ni­cal and vo­ca­tional in the sec­ondary. Thus, an aca­dem­i­cally able child can go from pri­mary to sec­ondary to univer­sity or Bar­ba­dos Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

There is far less ca­pac­ity for the child who leaves school with lit­tle or no cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, skills and in­creas­ingly weak so­cial­i­sa­tion to pos­i­tive norms. They emerge into the wider so­ci­ety with what a for­eign com­men­ta­tor terms “a lethal ig­no­rance”. The de­cline of the in­for­mal trade-learn­ing ap­pren­tice­ship sys­tem in the 1970s and be­yond, cre­ated a void that was never sat­is­fac­to­rily filled. To some ex­tent we are pay­ing the price for that. A caller to Brass Tacks made a call for Bar­ba­di­ans to “find sig­nif­i­cance” in skills and vo­ca­tional learn­ing, and to hon­our and re­ward such with some­thing ap­proach­ing the zeal with which we cel­e­brate aca­demic ex­cel­lence.

Of course the most re­veal­ing as­pects of con­tem­po­rary Bar­ba­dian life came from Mr X him­self. Any­one who can go for two days with­out a meal is bound to in­cur some em­pa­thy, no mat­ter how much wrong he had done. The Govern­ment of Bar­ba­dos must do more to look af­ter its hun­gry and home­less. A hun­gry man can in­deed be a dan­ger­ous man.

Mr X’s con­tri­bu­tion tes­ti­fies to the moral de­com­po­si­tion of Bar­ba­dian so­ci­ety, much of it hid­den in the un­der­belly of our col­lec­tive soul. Mr X con­ceded that much in the pop­u­lar mu­sic is caus­ing the prob­lems. He stated: “When you lis­ten to cer­tain songs, it is pure vi­o­lence, pure war.” He noted that what he termed “un­der­ground mu­sic” was “raw . . . call­ing out the crews”. He ad­mit­ted that even the lo­cal lyrics were “boost­ing war”.

Is this the mu­sic that is played on the buses to and from school? Not sur­pris­ingly, the chil­dren are fight­ing on the buses. The whole ZR cul­ture has had a de­struc­tive ef­fect on the school sys­tem. We are walk­ing back­ward into the dark­ness when we should be mov­ing for­ward into the light.

Much of the dis­cus­sion on Brass Tacks of Au­gust 21 tes­ti­fies to the growth of a so­cio-eco­nomic un­der­class sub­merged in a self-de­feat­ing sub­cul­ture, and to the in­creas­ing frag­men­ta­tion of the black fam­ily. One of the harsh re­al­i­ties of Bar­ba­dian life is that there are too many black chil­dren born into sit­u­a­tions where their ma­te­rial-eco­nomic and so­cio­cul­tural life chances are frus­trat­ingly ten­u­ous. Moth­ers poorly ed­u­cated, un­skilled and preg­nant with a fifth child; fa­thers un­known, ir­re­spon­si­ble and oc­ca­sional. The task be­fore black peo­ple through­out the di­as­pora is the restora­tion of the black fam­ily and the ac­qui­si­tion of eco­nomic power.

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