Education for Afrikan-Trini Powerlessness
Posted: May 25, 2001
Dr Kwame Nantambu
In analyzing public education in the United States, the deceased, erudite, international Afro-centric scholar, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, once concluded that:
"We have to realize that education has but one honorable purpose ... one alone ... everything else is a waste of time: that is, to train the student to be a proper handler of power. Being Black and beautiful means nothing until ultimately you're Black and powerful. The world is ruled by power not blackness and not by beauty."
In the case of TnT, this quote needs to be modified to suggest that the purpose of public education in TnT is to train the Indian-Trini student "to be a proper handler of power." It seeks to empower Indian students for future political and professional roles in society at the expense of Afrikan-Trini students.
This smacks of public policy disguised Afrikan-Trini displacement, powerlessness and future unqualified second class citizenship. This policy through the vital educational process is by design and not by accident.
To all intent and purposes the current government has photocopied the "Proposition" and "Affirmative Action" educational processes in the United States, particularly in Texas and Los Angeles, whereby Afrikan-Americans are denied admission to medical, law and professional schools.
The duplicative, long-term effect of this public policy objective is the future powerlessness of Afrikans in the United States and TnT. This is slick on the part of the ruling TnT government to effectively marginalise and render impotent the future of Afrikan-Trinis.
As currently structured, the Secondary Assessment Examination (SEA) is not only easier and much more simplier than the previous Common Entrance Examination but more importantly, it's apparent simplicity and easiness are geared toward the placement of Indian-Trini students in the country's best Secondary schools.
The SEA is a potent potential professional lock-out for Afrikan-Trinis.
It also represents the seeds that are now being sown that will bloom mature and blossom into the future cadre of qualified professional, political power control Indian-Trini class.
It is at this juncture of stark reality that the SEA is VERY DANGEROUS and DESTRUCTIVE to Afrikan-Trinis, in the long-run.
The SEA is antithetical to true Pan Trini national unity and equality.
The SEA seeks to empower Indian-Trini students. It seeks to provide them with the necessary educational foundation for future advance training and qualification. This in turn will prepare them to exercise political, professional and economic power.
According to Dr. Clarke "everything else is a waste of time."
Afrikan-Trinis need to wake up and smell the Indian spiked coffee.
Indeed, published remarks by students who took this four-hour SEA indicate that the exam was "easy." This was the conclusion of over ninety per cent or more of the 21,268 students on 29 March 2001.
The fact of the matter is that as a university professor since August 1974, if all of my students say that my exams are "easy" then that reflects negatively on me and the exam. I would have to revise the exam.
ALL students are NOT supposed to pass ANY exam at the same level.
For example, back in the day during the Senior Cambridge era, the exams were so structured that some students received First grade, some got Second, while others were given a Third grade certificate based on the level of their respective performance on the exams.
The fact of the matter is that all the Trini students who took this deceased exam from Fatima College, St. Mary's College and Queen's Royal College DID NOT all receive a First grade certificate from this "easy" four-hour exam.
The exam was structured on a gradation percentile basis, that is, some of the questions were most difficult, some were more difficult, while others were "easy".
This structure correctly and scientifically tested and evaluated the educational and intellectual ability/capacity of students.
ALL students DO NOT possess the same educational and intellectual capacity. Some students are naturally brilliant, some fairly brilliant, while others are just "duncy."
ALL students CANNOT graduate with a Ph.D.; some get an M.A. or B.A. In addition, the exams are so structured such that some students graduate with First Class Honors, Second Class Honors, etc.
The exams are NOT structured so that ninety-five percent of students receive a B.A. with First Class Honors. If that happens, the exams will be suspect and relegated to the nearest dusbin.
And the Chancellor of UWI at St. Augustine will appoint a Commission of Enquiry which will determine that these exams are suspect.
In the very same case then, the current "easy" SEA is suspect, by structural design.
It is skewed or biased toward the success and placement of Indian-Trinis into specific chosen Secondary schools in TnT.
The fact of the matter is that even in the United States, the national SAT exam a la TnT's SEA, is now being questioned as a valid gauge of a student's ability to succeed. This exam is also suspect.
Many Afrikan-American students are locked-out of top, ivy league schools just like Afrikan-Trinis.
According to Hugh Price, President of the National Urban League: "This trend of excessive reliance on these entrance exam scores coupled with the relentless assault on affirmative action has served to bar many eminently qualified Black and Latino applicants for selective schools."
It is my professional judgement that since ninety percent or more of the students evaluate the SEA to be "easy" then this national exam was more a political weapon than a valid educational betterment program.
The SEA was more sinister than democratic; it was implied anti-Afrikan-Trini but pro Indian-Trini.
It is also my professional judgement that by structuring a very "easy" SEA, the ministerial powers-that-be have not only already pre-determined the results, that is, those who would pass the exam but also more importantly, their pre-determined placement in privileged, "ivy league" Secondary Schools.
In the final analysis, the SEA is a well-planned, conceptualized and orchestrated process or mechanism to assure that a solid, entrenched ethnic cadre of professionals will exist in the public and private sectors in the future even if the current ruling party may not form the government.
The fact of the matter is that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
So maybe "Cro Cro's" commentary about "corruption in Common Entrance" is still valid. The Common Entrance Exam and the SEA are two sides of the same educational corruption coin in TnT — different name but the same unadulturated, pre-meditated, murderous, educational, professional game.
It is time for Afrikan-Trinis to begin to assert their right to full TnT citizenship and all the different benefits and privileges as assured.
Afrikan-Trinis need to be more vigilant if their future political empowerment is to be secured, protected and maintained.
The currently structured SEA is the real obstacle, roadblock and pothole in this endeavor.
Afrikan-Trinis must see the SEA within the context of ethnic Indian-Trini supremacy; it represents the classic European 15th century Divide and Conquer/Rule ploy at its professional zenith.
The stark reality is that access to educational opportunities leads to empowerment; while conversely, denial of educational opportunities leads to powerlessness.
This is the nature of the dialectics of ethnic supremacy in TnT.
Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").
Dr. Nantambu is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University, U.S.A.
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