VIVA FIDEL, VIVA JEUNESSE STE. LUCIE
Two news items caught my attention this week. The first was the awarding of thirteen scholarships to young Saint Lucians to study in Cuba. According to a release from the Embassy of Cuba in Saint Lucia, the scholarships to Saint Lucia were finalized by the granting of thirteen awards in the fields of medicine, dentistry and post-graduate medical studies. The release said that the Saint Lucian students signed the commitment to the code of ethics to be observed in the Cuban higher education centres, and received their scholarship files.
The code of ethics statement reminded me of the late President Fidel Castro who would have been 92 on August 13. This is probably a good time to review Fidel's life and judge for ourselves what he meant to Cuba, the Caribbean and the world. May he rest in peace! The Cuban embassy release added that the Cuban Ambassador, Jorge Soberon, acknowledged the support of the government of Saint Lucia in the completion of the process of granting the scholarships. Cuba, it added, continued to strive to maintain the scholarship programme. Some 560 Saint Lucians have graduated in higher education centres in Cuba from the commencement of the programme in 1980. George Odlum and I were the main light that opened the door to Cuba. I was the first Saint Lucian after the revolution to visit Havana for a world conference of workers.
We are not aware that there has been a press release from the government of Saint Lucia indicating how much money it spends to help these youngsters get to Cuba and the cost of sustaining them there for four years or more. An invitation from this writer to the Ministry of Education for comment went unanswered. The most charitable thing I can say about that is, regardless of the minister in office, the result would have been the same.
Another issue deserving some thought: When will Cuba- trained Saint Lucian doctors be required to sign contracts with the governments of Saint Lucia and Cuba that will obligate them to make free home visits to the sick and incapacitated in Saint Lucia? The period of such contracts of service to the poor and uninsured in Saint Lucia should be a matter for national debate.
Also: When will Saint Lucia emulate Cuba by sending doctors and dentists to help in developing countries? Shall we forever be at the receiving end of charity? Still on the issue of training, it may be time to more aggressively expand this island's agriculture technology by closer co-operation with Cuban agriculturists.
Most worthy of mention in this dispatch: the excellent performance by the island's under-fourteen football team in a regional tournament in the Dominican Republic. The national football association and its coaches must be commended for their efforts. By now everyone involved in the administration of football on the island knows how important it is to monitor progress in these youngsters—male and female—and to keep them constantly engaged. They must be kept in the spotlight until they graduate to the island's national senior team or some professional team overseas. I have not read an analysis of the below-par Saint Lucia team performance in the recently concluded Windward Islands Games at Vieux Fort. We seem reluctant to review and analyze our performances in sports and arrive at what must be done to improve. I've seen the same reluctance in other spheres of local life. Some people avoid analysis because it exposes mistakes and weaknesses, which point fingers at individuals. And that, to some, must be avoided at all cost. This is precisely why it is necessary to review why Grenada and not Saint Lucia topped the inter-school tournament this year. How can we improve if we don't review?
I pray that this newspaper's excellent sportswriter David Pascal will press the coaches of the Saint Lucia national school team for answers. In the meantime, we should show appreciation for the assistance the government of Cuba continues to offer in training and educating the youth of Saint Lucia. Fidel is dead, long live Fidel!
Fidel Castro's legacy includes the continuing relationship between Cuba and Saint Lucia through education.