was hours before the budget was to be read. The former Finance Minister,
Selby Wilson, an amenable and bright man, sitting under the hot lights of
CCN’s studio, was speaking of “transformation”.
It’s a word often used by technocrats and I don’t always
understand what they mean by it. I asked him to explain.
he spoke, images filled my head – not of budgets and Ministers and the
price of oil – but of a children’s film. “This cannot be
happening” I berated myself, trying to steady my mind, trying to
visualise what he was saying, “It’s about bringing about change”.
stored image in my head moved in slow motion. I saw a baby cub frolicking
through a village where the grass was green, the hills rolling, streams
bubbling. Nearby, its fond parents gesticulated proudly towards their son.
This was a contented and prosperous kingdom.
the coming of the hyenas everything changed. In their myopic and obsessive
thirst for power they ran ramshackle throughout the land, grabbing at
precious resources, living for the day, failing to plan for the next,
clamouring over one another for power, slaughtering the innocent, creating
came back to life with a start. “Transformation”. So that’s what he
means. I thought of the coming of the hyenas. In order to understand how
the hyenas destroyed an entire kingdom you have to study the character of
the pack. They are menacing, greedy, unimaginative, with a flimsy
intellect but also flashy and charming because power is attractive. They
are utterly indifferent to those sharing their environment and lack
empathy. They are self-seeking and wily and stupidity only makes them more
hyenas have been running wild amongst us for decades as we watched
helplessly. You may not see skeletons on a desert land, but it’s close.
In a country of 1.3 million people more than 300,000 live on less than
US$2 a day. Only one out of two people – that’s over 600,000 amongst
us – are capable of reading and understanding a newspaper. Twenty-six
percent of all our people – that’s 338,000 people - are completely
illiterate. That is, some
338,000 can’t read and write at all. They can’t sign their own names,
fill out a job application, read signs, or do a simple eye test.
hyenas did more damage with their stupidity over the years – they
created an education system that spews out a failure rate of over 50% at
CXC so that thousands of children join the work force every year without
passes in English and Math. And although we have a University campus here,
and although we are part of the University of the West Indies, only 7% of
our student population makes it to University.
this landscape – of the hundreds of thousands of the impoverished, of
the illiterate amongst us – and the talk is of vision 2020. The figures
come out of an ALTA study – the only adult tutor literacy programme in
the country. A University of West Indies study confirms these numbers. And
really, do you need to look at statistics to know that hundreds of
thousands of our people are illiterate and impoverished? Listen to the
young girl who says she wants show her HIV/AIDS infected boyfriend she
loves him by having unprotected sex. Listen to the young man saying he
dosen’t care if the baby is born HIV positive, he just wants to leave
“something behind”. Listen to the young bandit who, not content with
robbing two men at a taxi stand, urges his accomplice to “pull the
trigger, pull the trigger”. Listen to the barely articulate voices,
unthought out thoughts.
do I know, you must ask, how can one tell that the hyenas have been
gnashing their teeth and rushing into caverns with the spoils? Did I
mention the stupidity of the hyenas? They build shells, symbols of
modernity and success and house them with the wretched of the earth.
There’s the National Library, built with millions of dollars of
taxpayers’ money. And lo and behold the students who go there don’t
understand its purpose. They don’t know how to use a library. They
don’t care for books. They don’t have discipline, or love of
knowledge, or an understanding of how books can open up whole hemispheres
for them. Neither do most of their parents. And many teachers don’t read
either. Just go into an average home in Trinidad and Tobago and examine
how many books you will find there apart from technical or academic books
people are forced to buy. Listen to the noise in our homes, offices and
cars every day – the blabber, blather of televisions, radios, CDs. We
are afraid to be quiet because then we’ll have to acknowledge that we
are turning into empty shells.
illiteracy and poverty created by the hyenas that mask themselves as
politicians is criminal.
I mention the stupidity of the hyenas?
they are asking questions. Where is the crime coming from? Why are
children partying and swearing and going on to porn websites in libraries?
Why are young angry men without humanity? The answer was there all the
time. Poverty. Illiteracy. The figures are here to see. We don’t need
grandiose buildings or bridges across the sea. We need to pump more than
half of that $22 billion budget into educating our children and adults.
Will it happen? No. Hyenas – it dosen’t matter what political party
they belong to, rarely read.
– I heard that word again. We all recognise the need for it, but the