Amazingly we even thrive


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Category: Trinidad Society 30 Mar 08

This column is a response to this reader:

“My husband and I are educators, having left Trinidad over 20 years ago. We did not have the support of parents or anyone, but paid our way and dues, living as foreigners in another’s land, daily struggling and coping with the prejudice, broken promises and loneliness of being different, looking different and sounding different.

“I am constantly reminded of our potential as a people. I agree that education is the key. Sadly, mediocrity overwhelms the education system. I personally know of teachers in T&T who do not possess my qualifications and experience, but continue to draw large monthly salaries, can’t wait for their three or four-day weekend limes and couldn’t care less about the students.

“But, I will continue to attempt to return to my country amidst the rapid brain drain, crime and mediocrity and my relatives telling me that I am crazy to want to return to T&T to live.

“Perhaps, I can’t find a job in T&T, as I am viewed as one who left and should stay out, despite the fact I love my country, refuse to give up my passport.”

For every family who wants to leave, there are two who want to come home. Just when you gaze at the wreck around us, the violence, you see longing. It’s just home. Nothing can blow that sense apart.

Clearly, whatever we are going through as a country now, the violence borne of illiteracy is reverberating in a sense of loss of home in Trinidadians worldwide.

Despite this erosion, despite this loss, people long to come home to a country that appears to be run by the sheer will of our citizens who have dug in their heels, are “nah leaving.”

Amazingly, we are even thriving. I know we haven’t got the teaching colleges. We haven’t got stringent teaching requirements.

We haven’t even got the teachers and principals. Fewer and fewer professionals want to teach. Those who do want to get out, despite the long holidays.

A year back, at a Form One meeting in St Joseph’s Convent, the former principal Mrs Crouch said there were some 300 vacancies for principals and teachers around the school system.

When you think of these rudderless schools, the violence makes sense. So does the resilience. True, the system spits out thousands of illiterate children. It also produces excellence, students who will ensure this state doesn’t sink.

The big irony about providing free tertiary education is that there are many teachers who are taking advantage of it, so that they can get out of teaching to a more lucrative field.

Who can blame them? Most of them are young and bright. They don’t see why they should stay in a service profession that doesn’t pay to stay.

I think, for what teachers do, their salaries should be doubled, even trebled, so they would want to stay.

Despite the problems, my children are among the thousands thriving in State education. In my interaction with their teachers, I have encountered absenteeism, but also excellence and dedication.

Teachers have given me their mobile numbers, feedback on areas that go well beyond academics (They are the parents’ eyes and ears and protectors in the classroom) and on one occasion came home on a public holiday to oversee a project for one of the children.

It’s true the system is such that nearly all children who do well go for extra lessons, but parents don’t help teachers to do their jobs when they react aggressively to constructive criticism that could only help their child.

I am always surprised when a teacher hesitates to take away a student’s cellphone during class, demand homework, or even discipline a child.

In old worlds, teachers are next to God, next to parents, because there is a recognition that teachers hold an entire generation of civilisation and humanity in their hands, can determine whether or not a state “fails.”


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur