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Bacchanal in the country by Rae Samuel

posted 18 Apr 2020, 07:35 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Apr 2020, 07:56 ]
Bacchanal in the country 
Ah bawl like a cow 
Lord Brigo

As the crisis precipitated by the COVID 19 pandemic continues to widen and deepen, like a glass hit at the precise point that allows it to crack but not shatter, the inability and relative unpreparedness of the government is being further highlighted. Two recent pronouncements point to this. One on education, the other on release of prisoners

Let us look at the situation in education. Managing the situation is a challenge for working parents, especially those who do not have permanent jobs or contracts of employment. They have to find a way to earn an income and supervise the children at home. Many who are in the service sector, retail workers, clerks, messengers, cleaners, attendants in food outlets, bars, casinos, security personnel, simply cannot be in two places at the same time.

To make matters worse the issue of home schooling via technology is a farce. It assumes that all homes have the necessary technical equipment. It assumes that all teachers are willing/able to teach on line. That the on line service providers can handle the load. That already pauperized parents can afford to pay for enhanced programmes, that all teachers have agreed on the curricula for the students at varying levels during the term.

It assumes that teachers themselves are freed from the need to manage their own children at home. What about the hands-on subjects: clothing and textile, art, industrial crafts? Then there is the question of time schedules for exams, for admission and graduation, for repeating. It is a virtual traffic jam with endless pile ups

There would be the insane among us who would suggest that an added teaching time/school hours, once the lockdown is over, is a way out. There is already enough pressure on students to pass exams at all costs. Many parents will not be in a position to organize that.

Our failure rate before the crisis showed that the old methods do/did not work. Re-imposing them with more intensity will produce the already existing two sets of students - some who will survive; a greater percentage who will drop out. As the late Brother Scobie used to say, they in school and they drop out already.

I want to suggest to the teachers union, to the PTA's, to all stakeholders in education that we use this period to examine what model we have to design going forward. The idea of preparing a child for the world of work/labour per se is just about dead. The world of work has changed irrevocably. What is employment going to be like, what will its purpose be, what is the relationship between education and production. Case in point - ow we are being forced to produce our own food, how is agriculture/farming going to be prioritized in the curricula?

Another issue that has come up is the decision of the State to release certain prisoners to reduce the risk of Covid infection. The pretext for so doing is madness. To prevent the spread of an infectious disease you release 900 plus person at one time. Where are they going ? How many of them have relatives who can take them in at such short notice? Will they be tested before release? In a contracting economy, how are they going to sustain themselves? Ex-prisoners tell you that many of the homeless we see on the streets are former convicts.

Anyone familiar, even in a rudimentary way, with prison culture will tell you that 're-habilitation' is a complex timely process. Many former inmates receive support from the very prison authorities via counselling and job opportunities the officers may be able to point them towards. Given the culture of policing in the country strengthened by the new Commissioner we may very well see an increase in police killings with the 1% owned media reminding us that the dead person was just released from prison.

But we dare not mourn our situation. To quote a 26 old young man who came out of prison last year, after spending 10 years awaiting trial, only to be found not guilty:"The eagle must rise out of the ashes''