The foundation of any progressive education system in the world, and most certainly, Trinidad and Tobago, is one that caters to the overall needs of all children, regardless of their social status or any other differences.
As Education Minister, I spearheaded a drive to completely restore an education system that was failing on many levels, and that type of work can and will never be completed in five years, nor even a decade.
Systemic changes to cater to the ever evolving needs of a society that fluctuates between economic booms and threats of recessions, but which perpetually remains plagued by severe social deficiencies that affect the lives of so many citizens— such as crime, violence, poverty, teenage pregnancies, absentee fathers, single mothers and general breakdown of strong family life and the support systems they engender— ensure that the task of reforming the education system is a mammoth one, but which can be done with willpower, determination and commitment from all stakeholders, especially the Government.
While varying political administrations may differ on their means of engendering this much needed and fundamental change, they all have one thing in common, and that is the need to ensure that the education system is amended to truly cater to developing the children of this nation, the majority of whom are innocent victims of all the aforementioned societal failures that often condemn them to a life of violence, crime, poverty or general dysfunction.
The key method to ensure this, beyond systemic changes, beyond consultations and major overhaul, stems from the realisation and acknowledgement of the individuals spearheading such change that children are first and foremost victims, and often, collateral damage of our societal failures, but never the cause of them, and therefore, should always be treated as such.
No positive systemic change therefore, can be successfully engendered when the person ultimately in charge of such change, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley, brands the children as “monsters” and promises, directly or indirectly, to deal with them in terms and methods yet to be defined by him, but indeed, which immediately strikes an ominous chord in the nation’s collective psyche.
Dr Rowley cannot profess to be ignorant of the frightening consequences of such a statement, nor can he not be aware of their power to cause significant distress and resentment among the majority of parents of this nation who are working very hard to successfully ensure that their children do not fall through the cracks and succeed despite our widespread social problems.
Dr Rowley’s intentions may be honourable but his words are not in this instance and I respectfully call on him to immediately apologise for branding the nation’s children, even the delinquent ones, “monsters,” and commit thereafter to treating with all children in the fairness, respect and dignity that they deserve as individuals and citizens afforded such basic human rights under our Constitution and the social contract of civility and humanity that governs our society.
Tuesday February 23, 2016