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GENESIS OF THE FIFTH: EXPLOSION IN GUAYA By Val Cabrera

posted 19 Nov 2018, 12:10 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Nov 2018, 12:14 ]
Mayaro MP Rushton Paray says he fully understands why some of his constituents staged a roadblock yesterday
When the rain pours and there are no channels to direct the raging waters the streets will be flooded. Similarly, when there are no avenues to channel the legitimate concerns of the people, they too, will pour out in the streets, not just as an act of defiance, but as an expression of pure and direct democracy.

The protest action which took place in Guayaguayare on the fifth of November 2018 has it's genesis in the contemptuous treatment of rural communities and Guayaguayare in particular. In this unfolding drama the urban rural divide emerged and the disdain with which we were treated amplified this view, giving oxygen to our grassroots institutions and our actions

Guayaguayare, it must be remembered, is the village that gave to Trinidad its first commercially successful oil field. The iconic Point Galeota being the base of operations for BP, other multinational companies and their satellites, make Guayaguayare the umbilical cord of Trinidad's economy!

Yet, within this Oasis of wealth, timely repairs to a primary school cannot be effected, nor can straight-forward, honest answers be forthcoming from government officials. Through all of this, the influential classes who are bleating today were deafeningly silent! The interests of our children were of no concern to them!

It was largely because of this silence, this indifference, which parents took to the street, burning tyres, defying authority, risking their lives, to ensure their children receive an education and do not become victims of change in a re-engineered society! The community of Guayaguayare has learned through experiences with the multinationals that when socio-economic changes are imposed on your village, there is no change management unit to guide the community through the process. It is only miracles or a sound education that offer hope to us, the marginalised. So, to witness our children being denied this right was, in our eyes, simply a crime against our humanity and the regurgitation of painful historical antecedents. Let me explain!

Around 1992-3 the original Guayaguayare RC School was torn down. Its pupils and teachers were then housed in the cramped, poorly
lit and poorly ventilated community centre. For five long, agonizing years our teachers were forced to endure these stressful and inhumane conditions. Many children sustained permanent damage to their eyesight. The standard of education fell dramatically. Through those years, Guayaguayare was a mere footnote; a neglected, abandoned, and forgotten backwater. No one cared!

It was only after years of sustained protest by our Village Council, PTA and other community organizations did the authorities relent and construct the Guayaguayare RC school, which was officially opened on February 9th 1998.

Sadly, the new plant was left to deteriorate. The onslaught of sea blast, poor maintenance and indifference compounded the issue.

On September 3rd, 2018 the new school term began. It was only then, that the parents and children of Guayaguayare were greeted with the devastating news; repairs were not done during the July August holidays! School will be closed indefinitely!

A resilient and concerned PTA mobilised its members and alternative accommodations were found. The children were housed in the community centre and the churches. The teachers were on board; all we needed was written consent from the Ministry of Education, while we waited for the completion of repairs to the school. The Ministry refused to comply!

Even when assurances were given to us by ministry officials, these promises were later rescinded. A simple thing as signage for the usually busy main road was not forthcoming. After two weeks it was déjà vu for Guaya; all arrangements were terminated! Our efforts were treated with total disdain by an inconsiderate Ministry of Education.

Our children's education was prematurely aborted! The community was left to its own devices. Fearful of Gary's threats, parents tentatively organised a peaceful protest in front of the school. This ineffective action was viewed by many as a tourist attraction. Meanwhile, the Ministry, with access to the press, fed insult to our injury. Misinformation was being consistently fed to the nation, giving the impression that we were a group of irresponsible individuals. Were they concerned about our SEA students? No! Instead, an agency charged with nurturing our children was now waging war against its clients through lies and distortions.

The veneer of civility was shed and contempt for an entire rural community was publicly displayed! Country mouse and town mouse was on a collision course! On the fifth of November all fear evaporated! That's when parents, swore, it is best we stand in the streets and do what is right today, than our children lay dead in the street for doing what is wrong tomorrow! All we ever wanted and still do want is the continued education of our children! That, brothers and sisters, is the genesis of the fifth.
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