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Change Friendly and IT Proficient
Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2003

(Address Delivered at the Graduation Exercises of the Caroni Hindu Schoolm On Wednesday 18 June 2003 @ 1.00 p.m.)


Let me thank my brother, the Principal, Mr. Durgah Maharaj and his staff for kindly inviting me to deliver the feature address at this Graduation Ceremony. I regard it as a great honour and do so with great humility.

At present, Ladies and Gentlemen, I live in this community and have been doing so for the past 53 years. My three children who now live in England attended this school.

I treasure the links and ties that I have established with this school thanks to Mr. Maharaj. Thank you Mr.Maharaj and Staff for being so friendly to me.

I urge everyone that is a part of this school mini-community to focus on the theme:

To be the Best that you can be.

Mother T&T needs now more than ever, the full and most effective development of its abundant human resource endowment to contribute to the rapid pace of development of Dhart Mai T&T. This development must be for the equitable benefit of all its peoples. Mother T&T cannot or appear to discriminate amongst its children.

T&T is on the doorstep of another great hydrocarbon (oil an gas) bonanza that will be more sustained and deep-rooted than the first oil windfall of the 1974-84 period. There is large oil find off East Coast and Train IV of Atlantic LNG is due to start in August.

With this good fortune God has to be a Trini. To call Him in Caroni is a local call.

A sound, all- round education is the best foundation I know for you students to be the best you can be and contribute to your own welfare and that of T&T.

This school is a co-operative effort. It is funded by the state. It is inspired by and supported by the host home/community. It is administered by the Sanatan Dharma Mahasabha. It is a co-operative arrangement. The authorities have both a moral and legal obligation to establish the appropriate conditions for learning so that our students whether from rural or urban areas can realise and develop their full potential, that is to be the best.

I wish we would eradicate words rural and urban from our vocabulary. T&T is in fact a large village state. But we must face the harsh and continuing problem of the urban-rural inequity and the rural- urban divide. We hear only of urban renewal nothing of rural rebirth. Living in a rural community means alienated from the mainstream of national life. I want the graduating class to understand this inequality and to equip yourself to gradually dismantle this divide. You must face this reality. Selfishness, tribalism and double standards are rampant in every aspect of life in T&T.

Today I wish to pay tribute to the Principal, Mr Durgah Maharaj and his dedicated Staff who in close co-operation with parents and the community and with hard work harnessed the potential of their charges. You have successfully transformed children into graduates who will go on, I hope, to excel at the secondary level. Congratulations for staging your Sports Day last Friday as well as for placing second in the Bal Vikaas Competition. You celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Mahasabha in grand style and success.

Today’s Graduation is not exclusively for you the graduating students.. This is not your day only. It is also the harvest day of the parents, the staff as well as of the host Caroni community- partners of your learning.

Accordingly whatever I say today must be of concern to and be directed to all the partners of your education and training; parents, students, staff as well as the Ministry of Education who set the education policy and strategies and finance the educational plant and machinery. It is impossible to speak to any one of the partners without targeting the others at the same time.

To Our Graduating Class 0f 2003

Let me offer you warmest congratulations from all of us on the occasion of your graduation. I wish you well in your new academic endeavours. These are going to be demanding, highly competitive and richly rewarding experiences. Your school has prepared you adequately to meet and beat these challenges.

I know that parents, students and teachers worked hard to achieve this success. Can I invite you Graduates to show your appreciation to your parents and teachers by giving them and giving yourself a deserving round of applause.

Today, Graduates you will be leaving the safe sanctuary and protection of a small, rural Hindu Primary School of 350 students.

You will be enrolled in September in either a denominational or a state secondary school. Your new school will have a greater multi-ethnic population. Today you are closing the foundation Chapter in your life’s pilgrimage of learning. Come September you begin another leg of the relay race in your quest to be the best you can be.

We are fortunate in T&T to benefit educationally from both of these systems, that is to say state and church schools. Throughout the world, the denominational system of education has distinguished itself by the quality and all round development of its graduates. The academic success is reinforced and supported by stability and a co-operative learning ambience with suitable morals and values. The adoration and acceptance of God is at the centre of the learning.

Accordingly I make an appeal to the current Government to appreciate what is well known in T&T; that the system of denominationalism (church education) has made and continues to make a unique and outstanding contribution to education of the young. It was the churches that established schools in rural communities to counteract rural neglect when the state, including the British colonial Governments concentrated in educating people exclusively in the urban and sub-urban areas.

I am very hurt that funding for the construction of the Vishnu Boys School is being delayed while students have to use the community centre and a makeshift old police station and part of this school. This cannot be right. I invite you to witness how rural people are being given second class status.

Graduates, as you leave the safe haven of the South Bank of the Caroni River to further your education somewhere along the East- West Corridor or at the nearby Vishnu Boys School you are expected to undergo an adjustment processes. For one your new school community will be more plural in its ethnic composition. You will be expected to build bridges and understand one another. I urge you to make a greater success of race relations in T&T than we adults have done so far. We have to learn to live together even though we are diverse and different.

T&T is polarised between rural and urban, between Indian and African brothers and sisters and between the rich and the poor. In today’s newspaper Minister Rahael says that we are the 50th richest country in the world but 30 % of live below the poverty line.

As you grow up to maturity you should strive to dismantle and neutralize some of the barriers that seem to divide this beautiful rainbow country. This is not a simple task.

But you are well positioned to contribute to nationhood and the reduction of pockets of alienation and marginalisation. Your school has prepared you for this task. You must cultivate respect for and extol our cultural diversity and differences. You must realise that this cultural diversity represents a historical legacy that makes us unique in the world.

In spite of being historically victims of inequality in educational opportunities you must destroy the myth that students from rural communities are not high performers. There can be no substitute for hard work and motivation to be the best that you can be at the secondary level. T&T needs excellence. Mediocrity must be discarded. To survive we must always give of our best. The world is increasingly becoming a jungle requiring the development of survival skills. There is no substitute for hard work and determination. These must constitute the driving forces of your ambition to achieve the best. When you achieve the best both your parents, your teachers and your community are proud of you.

At the secondary level your ambition and/or career goals will become increasingly clearer. I urge to recognise those interests early and to pursue their realisation with determination.

You will have to change your study habits. You must on a continuous basis come to terms with the rapidly evolving and changing environment in which you will operate.

In Geography your teachers will have taught you that there are boundaries which separate one country from another. Increasingly however we are living in a boundary-less, border-less world, a paperless society and a cash free market place. The rate of change is phenomenal and at times can be dislocating.

I spent a whole life- time without really having to change or learn new skills in the way I operated in the work setting. You, the future work force of T&T, will find that when you begin to work, every 5-8 years you will have to learn a completely new set of skills to do the same job. The information super-highway, technology and the internet have changed the course of history forever.

Adaptation to rapid changes and the use of computers will determine the shape of your future. You must be change –friendly and IT ready. Teachers have to develop in their students a positive attitude to change and widespread use of information technology as the recipe for success in the world of the future.

I am glad that your school has a well-equipped computer lab to help you to take on the future with confidence.

Parents have to cease referring to their children as nice and quiet boy or girl. Your children should not be encouraged to be passive because they will be taken advantage of. Graduates you must cultivate your speaking, writing and arguing abilities. Seek and pursue your rights, your dues, your entitlements. No one will rain manna from the sky without your effort.

From the 50’s Caroni was subject to flooding and only because of our agitation last year our flooding problems are about to be resolved. Be nice and but not quiet and withdrawn.

Please do not forget your community of Caroni as you grow up in wisdom and stature. Give back something in return to improve your village. Do not abandon your village. You owe a huge debt to your community that nurtured you.

The Parents

Let me now address some important words to the parents in the audience who are very important to the education of your sons and daughters.

Parenting today is a challenging vocation. You are in the child rearing and child launching business. It has its joys and its disappointments.

Today people are blaming parenting and lack of family togetherness for the crime wave that is ravaging our society and making living in T&T very unsafe.

Your children are bombarded with a range of influences with which you have to compete to preserve their sanity and gain their constant attention. But your continuing love you have for your children, the time you spend with them will override and neutralize all these competitors. Your children must be equipped to leave this protected primary school environment to go further afield.

You must continue to be actively involved in the education of your children and seek to bring out and channel the best in them. Teachers and schools alone cannot do the job without your valuable input and assistance. There is no substitute for parental support in the learning environment. This support motivates your sons and daughters to achieve excellence. You must make the effort to acquire a computer for your children because of what I said earlier.

Last Sunday we observed Father’s Day and Mother’s Day in May. Fatherhood is the indispensable factor in achieving stable family life. We have to discard the practice that mothers are the only ones to participate in PTA’s. Both parents together must find quality time to foster and promote the education of their children. You graduates must insist that your parents are with you all the way.

Unfortunately in 21st Century, modern T&T 35-40% of households are headed by single parent mothers with 50% of these households living below the poverty line. In fact 22% of our people live below the poverty line. The children of these single-parent families need special attention and care if they are to succeed in the education system. I will not be surprised if a substantial amount of the students from these families are not the ones fomenting incidence of violence in schools and committing acts of aggression and deviant behaviour against the teaching fraternity.

What is required is that educational administrators must continue to evaluate the aptitudes of students at the early secondary stages and further stream them to be exposed to a curriculum that caters for their interests and skills. The education system must be adapted and tailored to cater for the development of the self-employed.

The state can no longer guarantee security of employment as it did since independence The education system must target the expansion of the small business class because the conditions for the flourishing of small business are becoming progressively more encouraging. Some measure of technical education can and should be done at the primary level or the students taken to a central technical/ vocational training facility for technical education.

The Corporate Community

I will like to focus some attention on the corporate community in Caroni. I understand that they make donations to the schools. I do however, feel that they must develop a social conscience and outreach with the host community. There is need to establish apprenticeship training schemes so that the young residents can develop some skills that will facilitate their subsequent employment by these firms as the sugar industry in the area is closed down.

I am amazed by the number of employees engaged by these firms who originate outside of Caroni. The corporate community practices this discrimination in rural communities but in urban and suburban communities they recognise and respond willingly to their community commitment.

I urge the local police to get involved in a preventative strategy that will pre-empt crime commission. Perhaps they can get members of the Police football and cricket team to coach the young students at the two primary schools and one secondary school located in Caroni. The Police Band may wish to stage regular concerts for the people of Caroni at Walker Park.

In fact when our current MP was Minister of Social Development I had proposed to him a programme for the rehabilitation of Caroni away from the drug-trade. Bur perhaps doing things for rural Caroni is neither fashionable nor press-worthy.

The Ministry of Education must realise that the primary system is fundamental to the success of the secondary tier. Greater care must be taken to prepare the primary students for them to succeed at the secondary and technical levels.

FINALLY Ladies and Gentlemen, I make a plea for students attending rural primary schools to be given affirmative preference in the development of a love for physical fitness and to be brought on par with their urban counterparts. Rural T&T must not be left out of the social development loop. If we are to reduce the scourge of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure that are ravaging the rural communities owing to the prevailing sedentary life style we have to start with the young at the primary level to pay attention to and cultivate a love for sports and physical fitness.

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