The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.
News & Comment
The theme of the function as was displayed on an impressive banner dominating the stage area was: Take charge of the Present! Shape the Future! After the national anthem was played on
The chairman introduced Comrade Dave Smith, the General Secretary of NWU who spoke of how the NWU came into being and how it developed over the period. In speaking of the early discussions that led to the formation of the NWU he said: “The discussion amongst those founding comrades of the NWU was really how best a small group of committed and experienced comrades could best impact the labour movement with the limited resources at our disposal."
He stressed that in order to get around the prohibition of a union that represents one group of workers in an “essential industry” from representing another such group, the NWU developed the concept of affiliated unions.
He stated: "The NWU is, as far as we know, the only union in T&T that has the provision for unions to affiliate to the NWU…By giving the NWU the ability to have new unions affiliated to it and integrated into its ranks, we are hoping we have devised a mechanism to manoeuvre around this piece of anti-union legislation…we are pleased to see the National Health Workers Union and the National Aviation Workers Union in the ranks of the NWU through the affiliation process.
This is our contribution to building solidarity, organising the unorganised and strengthening the broader trade union movement…By sharing limited resources, the NWU structure opens up the possibility of small and struggling unions having core administrative and organisational services provided for them through affiliation.
Not only office facilities, but education and research, access to organising and negotiating skills, a central facility for shared office space, membership records systems and accounting. All functions vital to a trade union, but exceptionally difficult for small unions to acquire.”
The feature address was delivered by Comrade Cecil Paul, Deputy President of the National Workers Union (NWU). It dealt with the theme of the anniversary celebration: Take charge of the present! Shape the Future!
In introducing the feature speaker, the Chairman noted that he was: “a comrade who reflects in his persona an amalgam of his contemporaries. He is a comrade who progressed through the ranks as a shop-steward, branch officer, and President of the National Petroleum Branch of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union.
He went on to become the chairman of the north co-ordinating council which comprised all the branches of the OWTU in the north of the country, chief labour relations officer and First Vice President of the OWTU...was central to the development of the Social Wage policy of the union and was a former general secretary of the Council of Progressive Trade Unions…born and bred in the San Juan area…has always been involved in sport (San Juan Jabloteh), culture (various steelbands) and other social organizations.”
Comrade Paul made a detailed analysis of the national situation and the situation in the trade union movement and within the wider working class. He laid out the tasks that had to be carried out so that the labour movement could “take charge of the present”
He made a cold-eyed analysis of the deficiencies within the trade union movement and stated “We are not armed with the necessary perspective, the overall vision, the requisite strategies, the trained human resources, to beat back the assault from the state, the big capitalists and the employers on the entitlements, rights and benefits of unionised workers.
The trade union movement must embark on an intensive and extensive education, training and communication drive. Our foot soldiers, the shop stewards and branch officers must be trained to handle whatever is thrown at them from the shop floor to the Industrial Court to the picket line and the strike camp.
But this vision can only work and we can only move forward when we abandon the culture of authoritarianism and embrace a culture of participation and democracy for the rank and file.”
He concluded by making a clarion call to the Labour Movement “to return to the days of struggle, vigilance, strategic planning and direct action in defence of the country and of working people. We must be self-reliant and fierce defenders of working class democracy. We must be tribunes of the people. Our unions must be schools of revolution, both practical and theoretical. It is time we accept responsibility for shaping the future…”
The next phase of the function involved the presentation of awards to three trade unionists, none of them members of the NWU. Comrade Sears introduced this phase of the function by saying: “this segment of our programme was the most challenging and fulfilling in bringing it into fruition. Challenging in the sense that when we decided to choose some awardees, the rich history of struggle and perseverance of our eighty year old labour movement had, then and now, unsung heroes who simply worked in the trenches so to speak for future generations to benefit.
Dozens of names and personalities were listed but our resources did not match the numbers who deserved some form of recognition for their sacrifices, sometimes to the detriment of their health and family relations.
Needless to say how the process enriched us all on hearing anecdotes of past encounters some of which we have started to document in video format by our media savvy Executive Officer, who as a former teacher was a member of TTUTA: Comrade Rae Samuel
This evening we have three comrades who allowed us the privilege of identifying them to receive an award from the National Workers Union..."
The biographies of Comrades Alva Allen, Ramdeo Boodram and Winston ’Man Man’ Edward were read out by NWU official Comrade Kathleen Davis and the awards were presented by Comrade Carla Walcott of both the National Union of Domestic Employees and the NWU.
The last segment of the evening saw the launching of the booklet Out of Pain. It was published by the Labour Advisory Bureau (LAB), a non-profit company owned by the NWU and the author Comrade Gerry Kangalee, Education and Research Officer of the NWU, said a few words about the relationship between the cultural movement
The first ten years has been an exciting period of building; will the next ten years be one of entrenchment and consolidation? It could very well be, if we accept the responsibility of assisting the labour movement in taking charge of the present in order to shape the future.
The National Workers Union (NWU) was registered as a trade union on October 14th 2004. To honour its tenth anniversary a function will be held at the National Library (NALIS), Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, on Saturday 18th October 2014, beginning at 7:00 pm.
The function will include a presentation on the origin and history of the National Workers Union by General Secretary, Dave Smith; a feature address by Deputy President of the National Workers Union, Cecil Paul, which will examine the state of the trade union movement and point the direction forward for the strengthening of the movement.
The tenth anniversary function will also involve presentation of awards to three trade union activists who have dedicated their lives to the advancement of the interests of the working class and the launching of a booklet dealing with Canboulay, class struggle, and the steelband written by NWU Education and Research Officer Gerry Kangalee.
Ebola is on the march and it takes only one person to slip through, just imagine with thousands flooding in for carnival what could happen.
It’s as if Ebola was just lurking around somewhere just waiting for carnival to come so that it could plunge in and do what it does or, as some would have it, what it is programmed to do.
The point is every day people are flying in and out of the country and the risk of someone infected with this virus coming through Piarco is ever present. Stopping the carnival is not going to reduce that risk.
Instead of focusing on the carnival what we should focus on is how prepared are we to deal with this Ebola virus. You will only
know if a person is infected when that person is tested. For that person to be tested contact would have had to be made with her prior to being tested. The critical issue, therefore, is that health care workers who make first contact with the person to be tested are those most at risk of becoming infected.
But they are not the only persons at risk. Those who take patients to the isolation wards and those who care for persons in those wards are also at grave risk as are laboratory workers who have to handle samples. Then there is the risk to those who have to dispose of the waste which must be handled in special packaging by people with hazardous materials training. Some of the waste matter to be disposed of may include soiled sheets and virus-spattered protective equipment. Faulty disposal puts the community at risk.
Ebola symptoms include large amounts of vomit and diarrhoea. Emory University Hospital in Atlanta Georgia, USA treated two Ebola evacuees from West Africa and at peak they were producing forty bags of waste per day.
Interestingly, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Transportation have significant differences as to how Ebola waste should be handled and disposed of, this being new and uncharted territory.
The virus has killed 10 percent of the medical staff in Kenema District hospital in Sierra Leone. In Liberia, 15% of those who have died from the virus were doctors or nurses who contracted it at work. It is not always possible to identify Ebola infection early because initial symptoms are non-specific. It is important, therefore, that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis, at all times.
To deal with the Ebola virus, health care workers must be rigorously trained in best practices and protocols that apply internationally. The training must not be restricted to a few medical bureaucrats who seize the opportunity to go on trips to observe what applies abroad.
Workers must be provided with the best personal protective equipment and intensive training in how to use the equipment particularly in relation to disrobing. Even in the countries that have developed rigorous protocols there are serious problems with the types of personal protective equipment to employ and how they are utilised, because of the lack of experience in dealing with Ebola. The equipment used to test the suspected cases must be top of the line and functioning properly and there should be clear protocols dealing with cleaning infected areas, waste handling and disposal.
When it comes to Ebola, carnival is the least of our problems. The protection of health care workers is critical and the training of these workers in the protocols of dealing with Ebola are vital.
The news trailer of one of the television stations stated that the Joint Trade Union Movement was interested in talks with the now Opposition re labour relations, post May 25th 2015.
In other words, comrades, (or if you are a TTUTA leader, colleagues) we may be witnessing the birth of the "Balisier Accord'' since the Fyzabad Accord crafted by labour leaders who ended up as Acting Prime Ministers and ex-Senators suffered infanticide.
A bit of recap here: When love was warm and general secretaries went to Couva to praise Kamla and Ministers sat on their Dicks rather than help workers, the accord was alive and well for some. Others held that it was a non-starter given that labour and capital in a society such as ours have an antagonistic relationship and such agreements maintain and ultimately re-enforce the status quo.
The Fyzabad Accord died on the night of the 25th May 2010, regardless of who was welcomed into the celebrations on the following Labour Day. Well, we have come to see that love died and some labour leaders like ‘vulgar slatterns' now seek the love of Jack, Ramesh, Keith on the Farris wheel
What will the Balisier Accord produce that the Fyzabad did not? That's an easy one. Mark will be no longer Wading in the Senate water; Errol will no longer be Minister of Labour, Rudy, the Smoothie, the smartest of the lot, will return to his Caroni lands; Obika will be hauled back from Ghana and De Coteau's wig will remain in place.
They will all join the passing parade with Mary King, Verna St. Rose and Merle Hodge to the chorus of cries of domestic workers falling on deaf ears of the Minister of Labour. Bwai, all he missin' is hearin' aid to be the new Eric Williams…check out the tonal inflection!
Will doing the same thing the same way produce different results? Of course, these "Joiners'' are not mad. Who says doing the same thing the same way produces the same results? Einstein? Steups! What did he know?
Of course there is the late lamented "Workers' Agenda'', a simple document which sought to establish basic human/constitutional workers’ rights as freedom to chose one's own union, to democratise the workplace, to restore meaningful collective bargaining, to establish acceptable standards of health and safety in the work place and to guarantee minimum workers rights to health care and paid vacation.
The problem with the "Workers' Agenda'' was twofold. One was that it took the struggle away from terrain favourable to the ruling class, namely the Senate and Cabinet and the High Court of Injunctions and put it back on terrain more favourable to workers: the workplace and the communities where people suffer for and lack proper roads, adequate health care, water, lights and meaningful education.
The other was that such an approach did not require lackeys and opportunists to be in Parliament and on state boards. Or that partners thrown off the ship should seek to return home to cuss their former sailing partners, form a rump movement and stymie the growth and development of genuine leadership.
So go ahead and shake yuh ‘Balisier Accord' if that is your new plan, comrade leaders. Others know that even after 58 years the leopard remains spotted
There is one real business in T&T and that is the one of Government receiving the rents/proceeds from “managing” the people’s patrimony and distributing it. That alone gives life to all activity in the country to the country. The problem lies with how these rents/proceeds are distributed by Government - or more precisely the Chairperson of Cabinet at whose sufferance Cabinet members exist.
There is little or no incentive or motivation in T&T to do productive work because we do not have a meritocracy and consequently diligence, innovation, creativity and hard work (DICH) are not rewarded. Anyway the DICH of others can easily be plagiarized and benefitted from – particularly by those in the state sector or those who have connections therein.
Most citizens have been conditioned by our leadership into the belief that work is about finding/creating a beeline to the coffers of the State or getting in with those who have such.
Our successful politicians can be divided into three groups that often overlap. The first is made up of those who cannot get a job outside of politics the second are those who see politics as a stepping stone to wealth and third are those seeking position and status. Most of our politicians qualify under at least two of the three.
A thought in all of this is that politicians are either legislators or they aspire to be so. They are about control and advantage and that means that they try to frame the Law so that it offers their Party and its leadership the greatest overall advantage and also control over its followers. Like lawyers they exploit the Law (and of course the best Lawyers do it best and are the most expensive and most sought after).
This is an abuse of the intent of the Law and manifest as tyranny, immorality and generally a corruption of our ideals and values – and our society, because right becomes whatever you can get away with – and that is better achieved by Lawyers and even best achieved by Politicians who are also Lawyers.
The activity in most companies in T&T involve some form of “Government relations” (some even call it just that) and we have a proliferation of political investors i.e. businessmen, who buy and sell politicians/public servants and/or facilitate the buying/selling of favours from/to them.
There is therefore no reason for anyone to create or innovate except in ways that provide them access to politicians/public servants and by extension to the people’s patrimony. Einstein is reputed to have said “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them”. To me this also implies that problems cannot be solved by “same minds” that created them – and all we have been having are PNM minds and UNC minds.
To overcome this “corruption” and foster constructive and meaningful creation and innovation we have first to put in place an environment that acknowledges and rewards meritocracy. Any initiative for this cannot and will not come from the “mindset” of our politicians or anyone involved in and profiting from the frenzy of feeding off the State.
Such persons exist among us as birds of passage (together with those who invest in them they live here as though they have somewhere else to go – and most of them do) and in collaboration with their minders/investors see manipulating or buying the public support as the only way to prolong their passage and ongoing feeding. Performance and delivery of goods and service to the public are not relevant or important factors in this process. Those you cannot capture, condition and coral you can always corrupt.
In the “party politics” practiced locally the interest of political parties and its leadership trumps that of the people it/they are there to “serve” and the country every time and in all instances. I believe that innovation and creativity should first and last be directed to improving the quality of life of citizens – particularly the old, the young, the infirm and the unwell – if only because we each pass through most or all of these phases in our lives. That should not have to be told to us by the brain or taught.
The truth of this should also be convincing to the self seeking and self centred because as citizens it would also provide for their personal well being, security and comfort. The logic that applies here is that in looking after the interest of others we also do the same for more than 80% of what even the selfish/self centred or even bigoted would identify as their interests. The argument for this is further reinforced by the fact that the money we are using to run this place comes from patrimony which belongs to each citizen proportionately.
Innovation and creativity should also be directed towards conserving our foreign reserves and earning us foreign exchange. If innovation and creativity and even technology does not include for providing the aforementioned then as a country we will simply not be sustainable in that we will be living on depleting natural resources and/or living on debt to be repaid by a generation that is with us today.
So let us dispense with all the talk about apps and the millions to be made from that and begin by talking about “apps” that will directly assist us to feed and “take care” of ourselves, preserve our environment, conserve and add value to our natural resources and generally address those issues that militate against our desire for an ideal quality of life.
Our history of experience and the reality would have already convinced Pavlov’s dogs that they cannot depend on politicians for doing what is obviously right and necessary. The only option left is self help and that means either revolution or we organise as groups independent of the political directorate, that will act to preserve our rights as citizens and serve to pursue measures to ensure our survival and prosperity.
Revolution is out for several reasons so I would begin the process by suggesting the following:
We establish employment activities that keep us off the roads.
We find ways to educate children at home.
We cultivate at home most of what we eat - and trade the surplus with neighbours or others.
We establish means of communication between, among us and others that are independent of the established media. What passes for media in T&T is of course very much part of the political problem in that how they function is determined by the messaging of their owners and advertisers.
We develop ways and means to persistently and critically evaluate and communicate on what Government and its minders/financiers are about and not about.
We include in our daily lives time for discussing and defining the issues we face and those being faced by the country and how we would like to see these resolved. This should include trying to see and understand similar perspectives taken by others.
We begin with the understanding that a lot of creation and innovation today is about i) researching the internet and seeking stimulation from and/or building on what is being done or has been done. ii) studying/observing/getting to know our local and natural environment and our traditions/folklore. iii) Finding ways and making the time to regularly communicate with what Jung called the collective unconscious.
Focus on ideas that we individually or in community groups can develop or experiment with (i.e. prototype) on a small scale. We should try to develop projects that can be done by or jointly with children/young people as part of their coursework in schools or Universities.
It is the height of hypocrisy to talk about fighting ISIS terrorists while not objecting to the USA’s harbouring of the USA trained terrorist, Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles. Posada Carriles participated in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 on Oct. 6th 1976, which was until 9/11, the deadliest terrorist airline attack in the Western hemisphere. Two time bombs, brought on board the aircraft at Piarco, exploded in the aircraft nine minutes after takeoff from Barbados, causing the plane to crash into the water. All 73 persons aboard the plane died.
Carriles’ bloody swath of terror and destruction included bombing a BWIA office in Barbados and the Guyanese Embassy in Trinidad. Posada admitted to plotting the 1997 bombing of a Cuban hotel which killed Italian tourist Fabio de Celmo.
Today Posada Carriles walks freely and with impunity in the streets of Miami.
The provisions of UN Security Council Resolution #1373, passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, mandate that all countries deny safe haven to those who commit terrorist acts, and ensure that they are brought to justice. The treaties require the United States to extradite Luis Posada Carriles for trial or try him in U.S. courts for offenses committed abroad.
If the PM is serious about fighting terrorism, wouldn't she have demanded that the USA extradite the terrorist, Posada, in exchange for (section 34) Ish and Steve if necessary?
The National Workers Union will be marking its tenth 'against all odds' anniversary on October 18th with a function at the NALIS. On that occasion we will recognise the contributions of persons well known in building and sustaining the workers movement.
We have also been documenting in video the lives and stories of several comrades whose work is significant but who are not seen or known as 'headliners ' outside the movement As Errol McLeod said to this writer in an earlier incarnation, the labour movement is not a place to build your ego and these comrades were not about such. (No, I am not "Lion the Liar', this was McLeod’s first interview as President General OWTU. He was acting for George Weekes who had retired. OWTU will not accept blame for what was to come later).
But griots from Chairman Mao to Kwame Ture to Amilcar Cabral have taught us that all phenomena have a dual nature and our struggle is to develop the forces of progress as best we can, in the context of our life time as Amilcar used to say. Others, of course, have struggled heroically to halt our forward march and mire us in backwardness, re-action, corruption, nepotism, big payoffs to their 'in-laws' and election run-offs.
This is my nomination list in recognition of those who even now are shovelling loads of bull/gobar upon us in the name of news, election campaigning and a la Vice Principal of Princes Town Secondary school, higher education.
The struggle for pole position in this "bull derby' is keen. When you read my submission list you will see I have nominated some seasoned campaigners who have been 'baffling us with their gobar since they cannot dazzle us with their brilliance. My list is of recent vintage but do not feel so constrained. The number sequence is numerical not meritorious.
#1. The Police Information Service: My star, aka Pastor Wayne, would have us believe that assassins would execute 3/5 men within earshot/gunshot of a police station and then walk across the street to shoot up said police station.
According to media reports the police officers in the station found themselves ducking and diving for cover during the barrage, while wanted posters, police whistles, designer shades, summons and missing station diaries flew across the room. Has anybody seen photographic evidence of this 'brazen assault’? How could they miss the facade of a two storey building? Oh they were firing warning shots up in the air! And the police, in fear for their lives under this murderous assault, did not return fire so that the buildings opposite would be pocked marked and pitted with bullet holes.
Oh they too were shooting in the air! They were listening to Father Clyde Harvey's presentation at the opening of the Law Term and did not want to 'tote anymore ghosts'. This P.R department is in pole position for an award. They edged out the Police Association representative who claimed that five days after the shooting the leader of the Opposition visited Desperlie Crescent and contaminated the crime scene. The Police Service seems full of likely acting Commissioners, don't you think?
#2. Acting/Active Prime Minister Errol McLeod: a furore has erupted over a unilateral decision to buy out the leave of a senior police officer, Wayne Dick for .5m dollars. Yep, I thought the same thing: .5m dollars for a Dick. The guy must be somebody or something special. Turns out that that the other actor, Commissioner of Police Williams, was not informed although "Chocolate Soldier' Gary said he was. When will these soldiers/police (solice/poldiers) learn to listen to their 'Commander in Armoured' cars? If he said you were told, you were told. You did not hear?
What that has to do with it? Errol himself once told the media what they heard from him in a live press conference what was not what he said. No wonder they do not want to make you permanent, sir, unless you do an Eric Williams and get ‘hearing aid'. Fingers are pointing in the direction of the former OWTU President General as the man who put all this in motion while in his temporary post- Acting Honourable Prime Minister for the Life of the UNC/People's Partnership Government.
The story continues that there is some kind of 'pumpkin vine' connection running through this story. If any or all of this is true, those of us heavily influenced by the OWTU experience would not be surprised. When he left the Union he was well rewarded; maybe he sees no problem spending that kind of money on a Dick. Spending tax payers money on a Dick is a load of bull!
#3. Ian Alleyne: As if Trinidad and Tobago's roads were not hazardous enough, we now seem faced with another threat a species of low flying corbeaux doing highway patrols. Recently, we were treated to the abuse of a live broadcast of an accident victim, still strapped in his seat and clearly in a state of blood soaked shock. Information on the identity of a fatality was also broadcast. This is done by the police in accordance with certain protocols. Most carnivores at least wait until the creature/prey is truly carrion. They hover but do not pounce until life has left the body. We guess when you are trying to top your last load (live broadcast of a sexual assault) and you are chasing ratings, no holds are barred as you race to download. That is performance? What is in store next? Live broadcast of an autopsy?
#4. Principal Ramdath: A Vice principal of a school goes on national media to state that his school is a 'breeding ground for criminals'. The sheer stupidity of the statement and the mind boggling admission that you have failed as an administrator almost defies comment. Whose school was/it? You failed to prevent it happening. If you saw this coming what did you do to deter it? Does one weed a ganja field make?
About ten years ago, a crazed young man invaded the International School in Westmoorings, shot the security guard and was himself shot dead. The school has not turned out a posse of assassins and operates most tranquilly today. I guess they are still in business because you were not the Principal or Vice Principal. Of course you have put in for a transfer since you have managed to turn the school into a 'breeding ground for criminals' and want to go and do it in another school. After all fish rots from the head and' a house leaks from the roof' and breeding starts with the male sperm.
I am actively campaigning for an annual "Load of Bull’’ recognition award ceremony. Winners, henceforth and thenceforth known as "Bullsh.......ers'' will be honoured at the Ministry of Labour towers in recognition of one individual who truly inspired the event. They will receive a plaque bearing their name and a citation indicating what they have done as proof that they are were and remain full of …Gobar!
Please send in your nominations ASAP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently on my way to NALIS I encountered a group of school children from South East Port of Spain Secondary in the foyer. They had half day off because of a staff meeting. Hooray for the teachers and the Principal because I hope and pray that some firm decisions were taken to deal with the Ebola-like crisis that has affected and afflicted our school system in working class, 'non-prestigious' areas.
If we map this the way we track and follow pandemics, we would see the crisis spreads from Carenage to Couva to Sangre Grande to Pleasantville. Like the failing health systems in Africa, the educational authorities have failed to treat with indications and signs and at best now can only hope for local containment and quick fixes.
A government that can build an overpass in quick time, re-pave a highway for the millionth time, import foreign medical help but not provide practical training for local dental technicians, spend millions on anniversary rituals that are meaningless to most of the population, cannot repair an air condition unit or fix a roof? To me that is not a poor tendering process but well thought out policy.
I recall years ago when the decision was taken to expand the “plants” in Couva and in Curepe by building on the playing fields, we asked what about ''all round development''. The answer was that the parking lots would be turned into playing fields. This was under PNM. Now in Couva there are neither playing fields nor classrooms. For the record Inshan Ali, Dinanath Ramnarine, Ravi Rampaul and Adrian Barath all come out of the Central area: be it schools in Chaguanas or Couva. We dare anyone to pave the playing fields on Serpentine Road or Mucurapo Road.
There seems to be strong evidence based on the pattern that pre-dates this administration that a policy decision has been taken to avoid giving proper education to working class children. Somebody has to work in CEPEP, somebody has to fill Amalgamated prison vans, somebody has to go school to graduate in intercol right football right? Some parents by the 'grace of god ' and through unimaginable and indescribable sacrifice manage to pay for school lessons and co-curricular activities.
Those are few and their numbers are shrinking thanks to 'contract labour' and CEPEP which are poor paying options of employment. The vast majority have to populate the 'non-prestigious' schools where, alas, too many teachers see the students as the enemy who have to be corralled and contained.
Far too many teachers are calling for negotiations to resume while not addressing the conditions of study and work they themselves are confined in. This is why they are caught up in and distracted by debates about 'corporal punishment'. The most consistent programme in history was chattel slavery and it failed to stop rebellions. Why will it work now?
The first respondents in a crisis are the people on the ground. I am suggesting that the teachers' representative organisations, along with their allies in parent teacher associations, declare a 'terrorist threat'' in education led by the State and take necessary steps to halt the spread of "Ebola' in education.
"Nations will march towards the apex of their greatness at the same pace as their education”
When the revolutionary government came to power spending on education was one of the areas that was focused upon the most. By 2001 public spending on education increased to 4.3% of GDP (or $220 per capita), twice the level of 1996 and one of the highest levels in twenty years. Much of the new investment in education went towards the building of new schools and the transformation of old ones into “Bolivarian Schools”. Also public school enrollment (primary and secondary) increased from 5.5 million in 1998 to 6.5 million in 2001 an increase of one million (or 18%) during three years, when in the previous six years there had been no increase at all in public school enrolment by Pre-Revolutionary governments.
The increase in basic education enrollment represented 8.6% of children age 5 through 14, in other words nearly half million children are in school who would otherwise be without education. For secondary education, the increase meant that 14.7% of children age 14 through 19, or nearly 400.000 children have been able to stay as a direct result of improved social investment.
The largest gain has been in higher education: from 1999-2000 school year to 2006- 2007 enrollment increased by 86%. The Bolivarian revolution also initiated The Ribas Mission to provide secondary education for returning adult students. The Ribas Mission began in 2003 and its first students graduated in 2005. In its first three years of operation, the program graduated over half a million students- about three percent of the country`s adult population. The revolution also carried out a large scale literacy training program Misión Robinson.
On October 28, 2005, UNESCO declared Venezuela illiteracy-free territory acknowledging the educational teaching-learning method known as “Yo Sí Puedo” (Yes, I Can) which was designed by Cuba, and implemented through the social program known as Misión Robinson (Robinson Mission). During the mentioned year 1,486.000 Venezuelans became literate as the result of the government`s efforts to guarantee all its citizens the right enshrined in the Bolivarian Constitution (1999) on articles 102, 103, 110, and, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines that “everyone has the right to holistic, comprehensive, good quality education, with opportunity offered equally.
The late president Hugo Chavez along with Cuba`s help, promoted the Post-literacy program known as “Yo Si Puedo Seguir” (Yes, I Can Continue), Misión Robinson II, later adding other educational programs such as Ribas and Sucre for diversified university levels, respectively.
According to data from the Ministry of Education, during 2011-2012 the access to education was at 96.50% while in 2012 and 2013 it stood at 95.50%. This year the government will distribute 35 million textbooks to state primary and high schools from its Bicentenary Collection, which covers the national curriculum. This marks an increase from last year when 30.75 million books were distributed under the system, and 12 million in 2011.
The government is also planning to distribute 5 million copies of the National Constitution to schools this term in order to raise awareness of the constitution’s contents and promote the values defended in its articles. It will also distribute 650,000 free “Canaima” laptops to children from 1st to 6th grade this school term. A further 1.4 million will be handed out in 2014, bringing the total distributed since 2008 to 4 million, the Canaima laptops are manufactured in the country as part of a cooperation agreement with Portugal. Today, the Venezuelan state allocates 7 percent of its GDP to education, while in 1998 the contribution was barely 3.9 percent.
Without including the socialist missions that target those left outside of the formal education system, enrollment in 1998 stood at 6.2 million and has now increased to 7.5 million in both public and private institutions. Venezuela has Latin America’s second-highest rate of enrollment in higher education: 83 percent.
This figure rivals that of developed countries like Finland (92 percent). The average rate of enrollment for the region stands at 29.6 percent. Investment in higher education: Funding for university has increased by 814 percent, up from less than $300 million in 1999 to $2.6 billion in 2011. 2010 marked the year when the most universities were created in the history of Venezuela- a total of nine universities. Student admissions: the policy of inclusion was consolidated in 2010, when 128,382 people were admitted to universities through the National Enrollment System (RUSNIEU).
The Bolivarian Government of Venezuela increased higher education enrollment by 170 percent, up from 785,285 students in 1998 to over 2.12 million in 2009. Public and free access to higher education has been boosted under the Bolivarian Revolution. Enrollment in public universities was at 61 percent in 1998, while in private universities it stood at 39 percent, but by 2009, the enrollment in public universities reached 75 percent and 25 percent in private universities.
Special Education: In 2012, Venezuela’s National Assembly authorized the executive to approve about $40 million for the Ministry of Education to build 1,200 special classrooms in Bolivarian public schools for children with disabilities. These and other governmental initiatives are designed to empower the until-now disenfranchised and impoverished majority of people in the country to build a socialist future rather than a capitalist one.
The issue involving Christophe Grant and the letter issued in his name cannot be allowed to rest until certain issues it brought into stark relief are recorded if only for those who centuries down the line are conducting digs to determine how come
the island people of T&T perished in the way they did.
I record as follows:
The letter issued in Mr. Grant’s name reflected a position and included statements which in other circumstances would have been considered libellous – given the truths that he, at some risk to himself, found it necessary to make public.
He clearly was challenging the inaccuracies and untruths attributed to him in the letter issued in his name - and the letter having found its way into the public domain had to be denied in the public domain – not privately to the person in whose defence they were issued. Any other approach would not have served to protect and preserve Mr. Grant’s good name and establish truth.
Subsequent facts emerging proved him right and further suggested the use of a supposed “protocol” in a way that made him the fall guy. As to whether this was intentional or not is not yet clear but what is, is that such “protocols” cannot be used as a rationalisation for the defamation – intentionally or otherwise, and to misrepresent facts to the public. We cannot seek to trump law, morality, civil rights and justice with public service “protocol”.
It is interesting that the responses from the PM and her AG did not seek to deny Mr. Grant the right he claimed and the public right to know - and indeed sought to offer rationalisations and apologies for the injustice done to him. And I say this even though I am no fan of Kamla and the AG who have jointly put in writing that they do not have to respond to FOIA Enquiries from the public.
What is worse is that the AG has in a separate matter broken the Law by refusing to respond to or even acknowledge the receipt of FOIA Enquiries. But that is par for the course on the road to hell.
More interesting is the fact that certain persons whose views represent and shaped those of public servants over the years, if not decades, did not take the line the PM and the AG did and instead took issue with Mr Grant for defending his name and integrity in the way he did. Their attack on Mr Grant was indeed a revelation as to the “ethics and practices” that has informed the actions of these “servants of the public”.
It represented a clear assault, from those we pay as public servants to represent and protect our interests, on the right of the public to be educated and informed (an acknowledged and essential requirement in a functioning democracy).
My real concern in all of this is it is another manifestation of the transformation of public servants into political servants. The denial of the public’s right to know what goes on in the conduct of public affairs can only be challenged by good Law.
I have evidence of such denial in letters I receive from Permanent Secretaries in almost all the Ministries including from Reynold Cooper who is the head of the public service. The real danger is that no one is able to discipline or fire these miscreants who preside over and promote the destruction of our society and purposefully stand in the way of us taking any action to save ourselves.
I cannot close unless I mention that our leaders never tire of telling us about the rule of Law with the inference that once you cannot prove their guilt or transgressions they will continue doing such.
Of course this means that right in their logic and morality is whatever you can get away with until and unless the Law determines otherwise. This places them, those who have the resources or influence to challenge or corrupt the Law and those who frame and administer it, above the Law. The evidence in reality supports this in that the big fishes are never caught.
All persons who frame and administer the Law are public servants and those who have the influence to facilitate its corruption are also public servants and it has proven impossible to find a corrupt or dishonest public servant in this town: at least that is what the President and his appointees at the Integrity Commission have been telling us.
Meanwhile a recognised poll indicated that the public is less trustful of the Judiciary than it is of Politicians/Parliamentarians. In delivering his recent address the CJ seemed totally unconcerned about this in that he spoke to the politicians and those who were there to cheer; never to the public who pay their salaries, who they are there to serve and who are on the receiving end of the questionable quality "justice" he and his team dispenses.
As this hopelessness and mindlessness goes on year after year, the Parliamentarians, the Judiciary the IC, the Police, the Army, the Coast Guard, etc. all complain that money is their problem; that is why they cannot catch and prosecute the real thieves/villains among us who we all know either by reputation or name. Our protectors mentioned in the aforementioned were all once public servants but have today become “political servants” or “corrupted servants”.
Yet the rich continue to bitch about transfers and subsidies to the poor in the country (even though most of these go to the rich) when in effect it is just giving to the poor a very small portion of what is their birthright, instead of allowing public servants to steal/waste/squander it or just give it away to those whose interests they really serve.