Wellesley College Professor Selwyn Cudjoe continues to push this country onto very dangerous ground. His latest suggestion is that Afro-Trinidadian students are at a disadvantage when being taught by Indo-Trinidadian teachers. Mr Cudjoe, during his weekend address at the National Association for the Empowerment of African People (NAEAP), put his suggestion in the form of a question:
"Do Indian teachers teach African students and, if they do, do they do it with the same tenacity as when they teach students of Indian descent?" he asked, before making the observation that:
"Too many of our children can be seen at the back of their classrooms and it seems that the attention that is paid to them is an afterthought."
The response to Mr Cudjoe, who seems bent on making a political career-aimed, perhaps, at attaining the highest possible office-out of the fears that insecure blacks have for the Indian "half" of the country, is simple: Prove it!
Here is a man who purports, after all, to be an academic but here, too, is a man who, conversely, seeks to thrive on gossip rather than scientific enquiry, his latest sickening salvo coming out of nowhere, as if the corruption contained in his innuendo could have persisted for all these years without it coming to light.
The truth is education in Trinidad and Tobago may well be in a crisis with the failure and dropout rate among boys, in general, and Afro-Trinidadian boys in particular being a source of concern if not alarm.
What is going to compound the pending disaster is the failure to look for root causes in preference to the easy route of scapegoating members of a particular ethnic community. In this context it may be worth noting the point made by Mr Rehan Abdool, Dean of Studies of ASJA Boys' College who, in a letter in this newspaper today, argues:
"Have we examined thoroughly how male Afro-Trinidadians aged 17-24 came to be a 'socially-disadvantaged' group? Perhaps, as Dr Williams found to his grief, in many instances their condition is of their own making.
"The counterpoint is that in our school, black male students sit alongside their classmates of all other races, and are able to achieve, indeed excel, side by side with the rest. What is our secret? Firstly, we enforce strict discipline on all students. Then, we emphasise to the boys that instead of shooting hoops, buying 'brands' and liming in the mall, they should focus on having a close relationship with God, their parents, and teachers, in that order. With this reprioritisation of values in a spiritual dimension we find that our boys are motivated to pass O-Levels, A-Levels, and eventually gain acceptance to university.
"We are justly proud of all our graduates, including the black males, but we do not accord special privileges to any."
We understand that at the NAEAP conference the professor's comments "drew loud cheers from the large audience," but our hope is that the vast majority of Trinidadians and Tobagonians, both Afro and Indo, recognise Mr Cudjoe's ranting for what it is- not a search for academic truth but race-baiting aimed at nothing more than winning friends and influencing people for his own narrow and opportunistic gains.
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