Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Educational Impasse in TnT: What is to be done?
Posted: June 17, 2002
An analysis by
Dr. Kwame Nantambu

While all the eyes of Trinis are on the politics of governance in TnT, one of the detrimental elements that must not be swept under the rug is the educational impasse that has hit the roof in TnT.

Trinis need to understand that education will never be a success if it is pursued in a vacuum. For education to be successful, it must be located within a holistic framework or reference point.

There must be a direct linkage between the educational process and the home, community, societal values and mores, the political arena and a people's way of life. This scenario does not exist in TnT at the present time; hence, the chaos that goes under the banner of school violence.

What else do Trinis expect to be the end-result?

Trinis must understand that education begins and ends at HOME. And a child's first teacher and guidance-counselor is his/her mother and father. A child's teacher in school is secondary matter; the parents are primary matter in the child's life at home.

As the Afrikan-American comedian Richard Pryor once observed: "if you see an ugly child in the street, go home and look at the parents." This may sound funny, but it is absolutely true and hits the bull's eye dead on target. A child at school is a direct product or output of his/her HOME environment. A messed-up, violent, abusive, disrespectful, bullying HOME only sends such a child with this baggage to SCHOOL in TnT. It is just that simple. This is not rocket science or advanced calculus.

Trinis must understand that there is a vast difference between a knowledgeable person and an educated person. Public schools in TnT, including UWT, produce knowledgeable graduates; they do not produce educated graduates. Public education in TnT is nothing more than a factory production-line system that produces or spits out "Certificated" mechanical graduates who have a total disconnect with society, humanity and sanity.

The same is true in the public service to the extent that government ministries are full to the brim and even over-flowing with "Certificated',' mechanical technicians who have a total disconnect with the needs of society and its citizenry.

I am not going to take up unnecessary space to give examples of this public service disconnect. Trinis experience them 24-7-365; I only experience them when I come home in August and December. This is a total nightmare for Trinis. The fact of the matter is that being a knowledgeable person is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to be an educated person.

In fact, most of the educated people in TnT DO NOT have "Certificates"; ONLY the knowledgeable ones have them. And that's the major problem with the political and educational impasse in TnT at this crucial time.

In the poignant words of the deceased, Pan Afrikan Nationalist, Osagyefo, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana on 25 October 1963 :
"Education consists not only in the sum of what a man knows or the skill with which he can put this to his own advantage. In my view, a man's education must also be measured in terms of the soundness of his judgment of people and things and in his power to understand and appreciate the needs of his fellow-men and to be of service to them. The educated man should be so sensitive to the conditions around him that he makes it his chief endeavour to improve those conditions for the good of all. "

All Trinis who are concerned with or involved in the educational process in TnT need to study and operationalise this on target admonition. Dr. Nkrumah is suggesting that a knowledgeable person is one-dimensional, selfish, introverted, ME-oriented, while an educated person is multi-dimensional, extroverted, WE-oriented, PEOPLE-oriented, and problem-solving.

At the outset, it must be stated quite categorically that it is totally insane, ridiculous and irresponsible for anyone to conclude "(in)adequate transport services is after classes are to be blamed for school violence.

This is abused deduction and even more shameful when it come from a supposed responsible government minister. The fact of the matter is that school violence by TnT youths only reflects a total breakdown in the country's moral fabric.

Just as Hip Hop artists in the United States write about violence in their community which they experience 24-7-365, so too TnT youths are only acting-out the violent community?domestic way of life they experience 24-7-365.

It is just that simple. This societal reality is not rocket science.Onedoesneed a "Certificate" from UWI to figure this out. Trini youths are just mimicking society's massive ills and degenerating lifestyles. School violence is the flip side society.

Trini youths are telling adults that if you can do it then we can and will. Unfortunately, adults and the powers-that-be in the Ministry of education are just not getting their message --- at least so far to date. The points that are being made here are that if it is all right for adults to use violence to solve/settle their bad love relationships then it is also okay for ten-twelve-thirteen year-old youths to use penknives and other weapons to solve/settle their bad love relationships at school.

It is just that simple. If it is all right for adults to horn and cheat on their wives and lovers in broad daylight then it is all right for youths to engage in such behavior at school. If it is all right for grown men of forty years of age to have sex with girls before "the age of consent" and for grandfathers to commit incest with their nine-year old granddaughter then it is all right for Trini youths to engage in similar sexual behavior at school in broad daylight.

If it is all right for adults to traffic in marijuana in the community then it is all right for Trini youths, including schoolgirls, to traffics in marijuana at school. It is just that simple. If it is all right for adults to harass, abuse and disrespect each other at home and in the community then it is all right for Trini youths to abuse, harass and disrespect adult teachers and principals at school using violence or threats of violence.

If it is all right for adults to publicly curse, bully, assault and rob each other in the community then it is all right for thirteen-year old school children, including girls, to do the same to each other and to adults such as school bus drivers.

The violent school behavior by the young students is all part for the course. It is just a simple case of "what monkey see, monkey do." The students are not the one to blame; parents at home and adults in the community are. Violence in school is the effect/end-result; violence at home and in the community is the cause.

Trini homes are producing seriously troubled young people. And metal detectors and stun guns will not stop or prevent violence and indiscipline in school. The students are bringing this baggage from home and the community. The fact of the matter is that breakdown of the family precipitates the breakdown of society which in turn ricochets into the national crime epidemic and violence among youths in TnT schools. It is just that simple.

The rash of school violence reflects/mirrors the decadent nature of values, morals and family life in TnT. Adults have failed Trini youths.

This writer totally agrees with TnT archbishop Edward Gilbert that "the biggest challenge faced by Trinidad and Tobago school system is providing a holistic education and providing balance in academia and life."

This observation is right on target. There must be a new philosophy towards education in TnT. The inherited Euro?British system, mind-set and modus operandi have to go. The?educational system must stop producing "Certificated" mechanical tools who masquerade as graduates and not concerned human beings.

For a cessation of rampant school violence, there must be a direct linkage between the school curriculum activities and the family, community and society. Parents must adopt a more pro-active hands-on intervention/approach in the educational process. Parents must make sure that respect for adults and authority, discipline, honesty, trust, non-violent solution to domestic problems exist at home 2407-365.

A secure home environment must be Trini youths first line of defense against any inclination towards violent, irresponsible behavior. Parents must instill community-oriented values in their children. And the onus is on the community to reciprocate these human values and priorities to the youth. Youths are the future of our nation; do not make the past through home and community-induced violence as a way of life.

Education in TnT must follow the Afrikan proverb: "it takes a village to raise a child." Parents alone cannot do it; teachers alone cannot do it; the community alone cannot do it; politicians alone cannot do it; money and technology alone cannot do it; but beginning with parents at the first baton pass-off and with all the afore-mentioned variable runners synchronized, then this holistic educational relay process will only result in nothing but gold medals and a solid system for ALL.

Violence begets violence; respect begets respect. Like charity, respect for adults and authority begins at HOME and ends up at SCHOOL. It is just that simple. For although politicians and legal entities cannot legislate morality in private affairs, on the other hand, parents can and must legislate utter respect from children in domestic affairs.

In the final analysis parents, adults and every community must each realize that in this educational impasse, they must decide whether they are part of the solution or part of the problem. The choice is theirs. These entities must shed their "Somebody missin" label if the cancerous spread of school violence is to successfully tackled and ultimately eliminated in TnT.

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Nantambu is an Associate Professor, Dept. of Pan-African Studies, Kent State University, U.S.A.

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