One of the most ridiculous and hypocritical political statements ever made in the history of public policymaking in this country is the remark by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that her Government “will look at legislation that can offer protection to children in their homes’’.
What the Prime Minister seems to be forgetting either by accident or design is the fact that she was the minister of education in the UNC government who failed to offer protection to children in schools.
The fact of the matter is that no government can legislate morality. And it is quite obvious that Trinidad and Tobago has degenerated into an immoral society as evidenced by the public behaviour of mature adult ministers and young girls.
The real organic root cause for the current exponential increase in school violence and immorality seems to have been overlooked in this national debate.
The salient truism is that the seeds of this national violent-prone behavioural tsunami were deliberately sown in February 2001 when the then UNC minister of education decided to abolish corporal punishment in public schools.
And, of course, when one adds to this equation the complete breakdown of the family structure, decadent moral values as evidenced by the gyrating vulgarity flaunted by Trinbagonians on Carnival days, coterminous with the hopelessness of youths, gang violence and the potent, magnetic, subliminal demonstration effect of American television, then it should be crystal clear to the casual observer that the fruits have not fallen too far from the February 2001 decision.
In defence of the government’s decision, the then minister of education argued: “If we fail at the school level, we will continue to face it at the social level. Research carried out in North America and Europe suggests that children who are constantly beaten see physical violence as the only way to resolve differences between themselves and others.”
Again, this represents classical, typical Euro-centric thinking and analysis to the extent that the colonised has automatically assumed, and quite wrongly so, that what is good for the coloniser is also good for the colonised. And this mindset has been the blatant, fundamental, neo-colonial mistake that has been made, maintained and perpetuated with regard to public policymaking by successive governments since 1956. The Euro-centric tradition continues in this country although the colonised kicked out the British governor in 1962.
The fact of the matter is that what successive governments have not and may never realise is that what works for the coloniser is neither necessarily good nor may work for the colonised.
However, as a result of the Euro-centric education to which policymakers have been exposed, they automatically assume that policies of the coloniser can and will work for the colonised. And this is the crucial problem of governance in this country.
On the one hand, it is an accepted truism that Trinbagonians exhibit a great propensity for conspicuous consumption of things foreign (as in American) while on the other hand, successive governments have continued to draw from this foreign policymaking paradigm. So for example, in T&T there exist Adam Smith Square, Columbus Square, Woodford Square, Victoria Square, Lord Harris Square, Abercromby Street, etc. The poignant question to ask is: Didn’t we kick out these Euro-colonials and their divisive mindset in August in 1962?
The salient national reality is that since 2001 pupils feel that they can do anything and get away with it. Today, pupils have absolutely no respect for themselves, teachers, adults in authority and for their school uniforms.
It seems very ironic that today the UNC-led People’s Partnership Government under Kamla Persad-Bissessar, an educator and Senior Counsel, is determined to go to the hangman to deal with the runaway spate of crime in the country but is very obdurate and reluctant to re-introduce the “rod-man”, as in “cut dey tail”, to deal specifically with school violence. The “rod-man” would beat martial arts any day, any time.
Madam Prime Minister, what’s the difference between violence in school perpetrated by boys and girls in school uniform and violence in the public domain perpetrated by young men with guns and wearing police and/or military attire?
School is no longer a building for children to “go to school and learn well”. It has been transformed into an uncontrollable battle zone for uniformed boys and girls to fight among themselves.
In the final analysis, the Partnership Government can neither deal with nor successfully solve the intractable, thorny problem of violence in this nation’s schools because, as the assassinated African-American nationalist Malcolm X once retorted: “The chickens have come home to roost” ten-plus years after the Euro-centric banning of corporal punishment from schools.
• Dr Kwame Nantambu
is a part-time lecturer at
Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies