Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Vision 2020

Posted: February 07, 2004
Dr. Kwame Nantambu

One of the most disingenuous and incredulous oxymorons spurring out of the widest, vacuous aperture in the Prime Minister's façade is the myth of transforming TnT into a "developed country status by the year 2020".

Such an insane and ludicrous pontification only qualifies the Prime Minister to be one of the automatic finalists in the Carnival 2004 ex tempo calypso competition - and he will win handsdown.

As his volunteer choreographer, this writer will advise Patrick Manning to use a post - canal and river mud and sewerage waste overflooding scene as his prize - winning skit.

The illusive dream that public policy and governance under the nuttin PNM regime "shall make Trinidad and Tobago one of the best places in the world" in which to live 24-7-365 only compels the realist to ponder:

Under what pet rock or "filthy little hole" the Prime Minister has been living and continues to live?
Or is this a Trini brand of psychological retrogressive progression played upon the populace by the PNM to the extent that Trinis live or exist under the illusion that they are progressing forward but in reality they are moving backwards at breakneck speed?

Put another way, there is an inverse relationship between quantitative economic progress and qualitative socio-human dignity, respect and modus vivendi.

The nuttin PNM regime has made a certain segment of the population "xtatik" and "euphoric" with instant electoral, financial gratification - what a pity!

The fact of the matter is that maybe under the Trini way (whatever that is) perception/mythology becomes reality, if repeated on a constant daily basis.

Apparently, the incompetent PNM government did not look "below the surface" in terms of the brutal reality of life in TnT - let alone face it.

Maybe dreams do come true in TnT if one dreams long, loud and hard enough. In such an exercise, the PNM comes out triumphant with an A plus grade.

Life is nothing but a public policy pipe-dream and scary nightmare at best in TnT and no amount of wishful visioning, can erase this reality. Who is fooling whom?

The reality is that "vision 2020" is nothing but an ex tempo, good-sounding, feeling-good news headline for the nuttin PNM government to pacify and placate Trinis in the short-run and to lengthen their term in office, in the long-run.

Indeed, the master-plan, albeit Plan B, behind this "vision" without any real mission is to install and enroll Patrick Manning as the second Father of the Nation.

The policies of the Manning PNM and the quality of the personnel he has around him parallel the Williams PNM and his cadre around him.

Check it out?

Laventille was a ghetto under Williams; it is now a ghetto under Manning. The spate of violence, gang-warfare, murders, drugs, etc. are the only exceptional variables.

The Manning government does not have the slightest clue as to what a "developed country status" means, stands for and entails in terms of macro public policy formulation and governance. In this specific regard, the nuttin PNM is but a terminal case.

There is no long-term, logical, reasoned, co-ordinated, well thought-out process in the functioning of this regime. And this reality is clearly evidenced by the weekly post-Cabinet, ex tempo diatribes uttered by the Prime Minister.

The fact of the matter is that the ridiculous July 2003 notion (or stunt) that education is the "major plank on which vision 2020 can succeed" only speaks volumes as to the depth of the bottomless pit government's ideas have fallen.

The reality of the education "plank" in TnT is as follows:
· almost 95 per cent of TnT's population has some form of learning disability, especially in the area of literacy;

· almost half of the students who wrote the 2003 CXC exams in Mathematics and English "A" failed;

· "More than 95 per cent of national scholarships have been obtained by schools which are controlled by non-governmental organizations";

· According to Pres. Richards: "Between birth and age 16, we have about 11,000 children unaccountable for - 4,000 of them are lost to the system before they reach age 12".

· there have been teacher shortages in schools for months and years;

· and all these are against the well-documented backdrop of mal-administration and irresponsibility by the Ministry.

The bottom-line is that the school is no longer a safe environment for beating books but a ready-made meeting place for chopping up fellow students, male or female. Under the PNM schools have become violent-weapons-explosives-drugs-teachers/administrators assault-infested war zones, by design and not by accident.

Are these the elements of the education "plank" that is to support government's "vision 2020"?

The education system in TnT is a total, diabolical disaster - everyone recognizes this except the irresponsible Minister and the Prime Minister. This is insanity!

In the sane words of the government's Minister of Planning and Development, Dr. Keith Rowley:

"We do not have the most effective teaching service. It is antiquated, as it relates to the hiring and advancing of teachers".

This candid assessment is corroborated by Minister of Works and Transport, Franklin Khan in that "we cannot support a system (of education) that is not working".

Indeed, these Ministers of the nuttin PNM government confess that TnT's education "plank" is ineffective, but not the irresponsible Minister nor the Prime Minister.

If the government wants to erect a solid "plank" as a "starting point" in "vision 2020", then the first action to take is to relieve the current Minister of her failed duties and also to install a new pro-active, problem-solving and imaginative core group of policy thinkers, analysts and planners in the ministry.

The present crop in the Ministry of Degradation is educationally comatose, culturally anesthetized and totally oblivious, disconnected and detoured from the multi-faceted societal realities and demands that afflict young people in TnT today - far less in 2020.

The Ministry of Degradation has failed miserably as an instrument of the people; on the contrary, it has become a potent obstacle to the people's educational needs, goals, aspirations and progress.

The fact of the matter is that education must function as an agent for positive social change; it must be a change agent. It must empower young people. It must not be static but evolutionary.

According to Val T. Mc Comie in his "Education and Development in the Caribbean" (1978):

"The present educational systems in the Commonwealth Caribbean are still largely updated versions of the (Euro)- British colonial model implanted in the 19th century. An objective evaluation of this model reveals that it succeeded in achieving the wider purpose of colonialism, which was the transfer of western culture and learning and the subordination of indigenous values, customs and languages. In the main, education was external to the reality of daily life. The best education provided tended to direct the attention and motivation of pupils away from their true interests and those of their country. This was a good system for preserving the psychology of dependence but hardly a basis for developing national consciousness and self-reliance" (for the colonized).
As a result of this Euro-centric legacy, the present system functions as a factory that only produces mechanical, mis-educated, edjumacated, certificated by-products, albeit graduate students.

The system produces educated people, not knowledgeable ones - there is a big, valid difference between the two.

The educated/certificated by-products of the system are shamelessly disconnected and lost from life's strategies and challenges, societal realities, etc. They are alienated from society.

This phenomenon comes to the forefront when one calculates that although government ministries are crawling wall-to-wall with 'qualified' - degreed staff, yet the country's infra-structure, for example, is a total unmitigated disaster, especially after every heavy rainfall for the past 40 years and counting.

In this specific regard, no one in position of authority seems to care. Everyone, including the Ministry of Works and the Mayor of Port-of- Spain, blames everyone and everything even the rivers themselves for these perennial disasters. Who is fooling whom?

The accused finger must be pointed at the Minister of Works.

Is this the way to build the country's infra-structure for it to qualify for "developed country's status in the year 2020?

Give me a break, please, Mr. Minister of Works. Your endemic incompetence is matched only by the Prime Minister's weekly ex tempo diatribes - birds of a feather ...

The fact of the matter is that any education policy considerations should focus on creating a new mind - set among students; a new set of communal mores and values; a blending of formal and informal dynamics of the education process; a new concerted effort and commitment to develop each student to his/her full-maximum potential, self-esteem, and self-worth; a new sense of societal belonging and WE togetherness; a new sense of co-operation versus competition among students.

The package should include a new sense of racial-cultural respect and tolerance; a new mechanism to replace the proclivity for crass materialism with respectful humanism; a new methodology to engage in critical thinking and analysis; a new approach to conflict resolution and behaviour modification.

Plus a new model for human inter-action, personal relationship and self-evaluation; a new life purpose, goal and direction; a new attitude towards self, family and society, and a new historical-cultural orientation/paradigm/context to complement this multi-cultural society.

In addition, there must be a direct linkage between the school curriculum and macro socio-economic planning process so as to alleviate and/or avoid any structural inequalities that may arise.

Today, there exists an entrenched disconnect between these two variables with severe, detrimental social imbalances and consequences.

Students must know their correct, purposeful and designated role, duty and responsibility to society.

However, they certainly will not know the right answer to these critical unknowns by merely passing an impersonal but practical CXC exam.

School curriculum must be competency-based.

In addition, any new curriculum must also be truly holistic and human-oriented-centered, at its core.

This is just the stark reality of daily life in TnT - a real multi-dimensional human problem exists.

Government's "vision 2020" seems to be either dumb or ignorant as to the social ledger in TnT:

· the family structure has been torn asunder irreversibly and the home is now a gnashing dog house;

· domestic violence, murder, incest, child abuse, single parent households are the acceptable norm, not an aberration;

· 40 per cent of young people between 14 to 19 years have children;

· family - life values are reflected in common-law relation- ships (shacking-up), compounded by the fact that both husband and wife must have an outside "friend" as a matter of acceptable familial rule:

· the marriage vow is now an original joke, not an original sin it was back in the day;

· young people have absolutely no respect for adult authority;

· social mores, mannerisms, behaviour patterns, slogans, slangs and eating habits have become 1,000 per cent Americanised; and

· the presence of vagrants has become a permanent and acceptable fixture on the landscape of the nations's capital.

The poignant questions that arise are: How does "vision 2020" address or even attempt to rectify these intractable phenomena? Where is the public good or social responsibility component of "vision 2020"? Is social decadence an acceptable "plank" in "vision 2020"?

This vision is even more blurred in the health arena.

The mal-administration and non-delivery of services by all the country's regional health authorities are evidenced by the unwarranted death of innocent babies, the absence of medical equipment to save lives and the nasty, arrogant and disrespectful attitude and treatment by hospital personnel towards the general public.

The incompetent Minister has no Vision 2003 to remedy this decrepit, deadly conundrum.

To all intent and purposes, his myopic and impaired vision a la Office of the Prime Minister suggests that the public is invisible and expendable, albeit dotish people with sheepish-puppet-like behaviour.

TnT's health crisis and malaise represent another porous "plank" in the government's "Vision 2020" polytrick, which is nothing more than a historic, indefensible, schizophrenic congame.

On the economic "plank", the United Nations Development Programme reported in August 2003 that "1 in every 3 young people lives in poverty" and that "an estimated 270,000 people in TnT still live below the poverty line", that is, living on at least US$2.00 to $1.00 per day.

It is this porous poverty "plank" plus dire hopelessness and dead-end exasperation, exacerbated by runaway/uncontrollable vanity among young people that have precipitated and catapulted the ever-spiralling spate of kidnappings, murders, violent gang warfare, crime and robberies in TnT.

The impotent and defunct social public policy of the nuttin PNM government is the obvious culprit that has sown the seeds of the blossoming "social terrorism" in TnT.

As of October 2003, there were 185 murders and 179 kidnappings.

These frightening statistics thus elevate TnT to the top of the world ranking class in these two categories with the corruption index not too far behind.

Indeed, the "11-point crime and justice programme to provide additional resources for the safety and security of all citizens" that the Prime Minister announced in his 2003-04 Budget is just another perfect derivative and duplication of his weekly post-Cabinet ex tempo diatribes. Who is fooling whom?

Hence, it is no small wonder that 81 per cent of the conscious, well-informed and independent-thinking public believe that the government's so-called "war on crime" is nothing but a colossal exercise in futility that must be revamped, as in scrapped.

An adage says that "the pen is mightier than the sword". However, in the specific case of TnT, the realist must conclude that the perpetrators of kidnappings, murders, drug-trafficking, violent gang warfare, just to name a few, seem to be a lot mightier than government's crime-fighting plans.

Is there a consensual relationship between these two entities?

Is one entity attempting to cash in an election promisary note?

Truth be told: In keeping with the ineptitude, recalcitrance, ex tempo and carnival-like mentality toward public policy and governance under the nuttin PNM government, the only sectors of TnT that will achieve "developed country status by the year 2020" are the missions of steelband and calypso.

The vision of the rest of society will remain impaired and left to wallow in perpetual social, economic, psychological, cultural and politico - constitutional remission. And that's putting it mildly.

Truth be told: In 2020, what international organization will validate that TnT has achieved "developed country status"?

This writer prays that it is neither TUCO nor Pan Trinbago.

Does the Prime Minister know what are the basic criteria for developed or first world country status?

Is he saying (or just dreaming) that those rudiments exist under this current nuttin PNM government?

Does the Prime Minister realize that his manifest forte, namely, ex tempo diatribes, is not one of these internationally established criteria for such a status?

Who is fooling whom?

The fact of the matter is that in addition to its disparate apparitions "Vision 2020" must be seen only as the ultimate, catchy ex tempo calypso title with a sustainable, prize-winning, carnival roadmarch beat.

Is the Prime Minister cognizant of the fact that citizens of any developed country possess and exhibit a particular mind-set or mentality in order to protect, defend, ossify and sustain such a status?

Is the Prime Minister saying (or just ex temporizing as usual) that the public policy and governance under the PNM have imbued the citizens of TnT with that particular mind-set or mentality in order to achieve such a status in any given year?

The fact of the matter is that during the past 47 long years of the PNM, such a required mind-set or mentality has been non-existent.

Indeed, the Prime Minister's weekly post-Cabinet Dimanche Gras performances attest to this gaping void.

Mas in yuh mas!

In the final analysis, "Vision 2020" is but an illusion "to be pursued but never attain" - at least, not in this lifetime; maybe in the next: Mr. Prime Minister.

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

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