We Must In­vest More if Our Lead­ers of Tomorrow are to be Use­ful Lead­ers!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Toni Ni­cholas

There are some state­ments that drive me up the wall, es­pe­cially when they fall out of the mouths of politi­cians. One such state­ment is “our youth are the fu­ture.”

Con­sider the fol­low­ing: “Dar­ren Julius Gar­vey Sammy, who was born 20 De­cem­ber 1983, re­cently led the West Indies to its sec­ond vic­tory in the ICC T20 World cup tour­na­ment. On mak­ing his One Day In­ter­na­tional (ODI) de­but against Bangladesh in 2004 Sammy be­came the first per­son from Saint Lu­cia to play in­ter­na­tional cricket. Three years later he made his Test de­but against Eng­land, tak­ing 7/66, which was the best bowl­ing fig­ure for a West In­dian in his first Test since Alf Valen­tine in 1950. Sammy was ap­pointed West Indies cap­tain in Oc­to­ber 2010. He scored his maiden Test cen­tury in May 2012 dur­ing a match against Eng­land. Sammy also plays in the IPL and the CPL.”

It is so easy now to talk about Sammy af­ter he has proved him­self. Easy to talk about his “po­ten­tial” way back when and to seek to ben­e­fit from his achieve­ments with flower speeches about our young peo­ple be­ing “the fu­ture.” How many who talk that way lifted a fin­ger to help Sammy the boy achieve the en­vis­aged po­ten­tial? Might Sammy have been an even greater player had he been given the op­por­tu­nity to ex­cel when he was fif­teen or six­teen? Or did no one see his po­ten­tial back then?

I have al­ways said our chil­dren are not the fu­ture; they are our present. And we should do for them the best pos­si­ble as early as pos­si­ble, in other words, now.

The sec­ond thing that makes my blood boil is when peo­ple use the word ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity in re­la­tion to sports, mu­sic and the arts.

Con­sider this, ref­er­enc­ing a Faux a Chaud dance group: “As a youth ad­vo­cate, I strongly be­lieve in the im­por­tance of aca­demics. How­ever, there are more com­po­nents of be­com­ing a well-rounded in­di­vid­ual. Ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties like danc­ing are great ways to so­cial­ize, en­hance time man­age­ment skills and im­prove over­all pro­duc­tiv­ity. Aren’t these dancers mov­ing for­ward?”

The above com­ment was posted on the Face­book page of the SLP’s can­di­date for Cas­tries South, Ernest Hi­laire, a few days ago.

Of course it’s the silly sea­son, but there should be lim­its to how far we per­mit our mouths to take us, even as politi­cians. It sick­ens me to see politi­cians with the youth, de­prived and el­derly, shame­lessly sug­gest­ing how much they care about the shut-in, the poor and chil­dren ob­vi­ously in need of spe­cial at­ten­tion. Nowhere is it sug­gested that what the pic­tured needy cit­i­zens re­ceive is paid for by tax­pay­ers, not with money out of the politi­cian’s pri­vate bank ac­count. If only they would re­call the wis­dom in “when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is do­ing.” I well re­mem­ber the late Ro­manus Lan­siquot eat­ing out of a cal­abash in Black Mal­let while promis­ing the ras­tas to le­gal­ize ganja!

But I may have di­gressed. As a self-pro­claimed youth ad­vo­cate and in­tel­lect, Ernest Hi­lare should know in­formed peo­ple do not re­fer to the arts as “ex­tracur­ric­u­lar.” For­get what­ever Kenny might say about that; bet­ter to seek out the wis­dom of Derek Wal­cott.

Ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties fall out­side the reg­u­lar cur­ric­u­lar of mod­ern schools. Vol­un­teer ac­tiv­i­ties also fall un­der the ex­tracur­ric­u­lar um­brella.

In the real world the arts and sports form part of the for­mal and reg­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. Stud­ies have also proven that a well-rounded ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence that in­cludes the arts is closely linked to aca­demic achieve­ment, so­cial and emo­tional devel­op­ment, civic en­gage­ment, and eq­ui­table op­por­tu­nity.

But again, ‘tis the sea­son where politi­cians will say and do just about any­thing when ad­dress­ing the near-ine­bri­ated and con­ve­niently deaf, dumb and blind. On the other hand, sober minds are also look­ing on and lis­ten­ing.

Over the last four years, mil­lions of tax­payer dol­lars have been de­voured by the Min­istry of Cre­ative In­dus­tries, which has be­come lit­tle more than a STEP pro­gramme for the arts. Just a few weeks ago the prime min­is­ter feted “cre­atives” at his of­fi­cial res­i­dence if only to pose for self­ies with many a starv­ing artiste.

At this junc­ture I can­not help but pon­der: What is the point of spend­ing mil­lions on a Jazz & Arts Fes­ti­val when few of our schools boast art pro­grammes? When will we fi­nally re­al­ize that our chil­dren are not the fu­ture, they are our now; and we have a duty to in­vest in them if they will be use­ful lead­ers of tomorrow! Plac­ing the arts at the top of the totem pole will also make a big dif­fer­ence. Mean­while, bet your bot­tom dol­lar you will wit­ness dozens of young­sters, like those pic­tured here, on stage at many a po­lit­i­cal rally this silly sea­son, only to be for­got­ten there­after.

The SLPs Cas­tries South hope­ful Ernest Hi­laire poses with as­pir­ing dancers from Faux A Chaud in need of more than just hand-outs and self­ies with politi­cians!

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