“Like stick break in yuh ears” is one of our colloquial expressions, frequently addressed to the stubborn. The admonition can have a contemptuous tone, but our rulers have used it with reference to those who persist in gathering in defiance of coronavirus regulations and common sense.
Right back at the rulers, one might ask whose ears have stick? It looks like stick is broken in their ears, not ours. No less a person than the President of the Republic had previously questioned whether we can trust our political leaders to listen to us.
Now in her robust New Year’s Day message, she stated that while the Government of the day may have some of the matters of concern of citizens in its sights, “those in the kitchen are feeling the heat daily and are not sympathetic to hackneyed excuses, promises of action and sob stories, which they have heard ad nauseam, with nothing to show for it”.
The President of the Republic is well aware of the limits of her office, which require her not to enter any specific partisan political fray, but commentators may seek to raise some matters for which her words are apt.
One “sob story heard ad nauseam” is that “the UNC did it. Blame them”. The UNC has been out of office for more than five years and has tied itself to the low credibility Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The Government is beating a UNC bobolee that does not even have stuffing inside its caricature body.
A singeing example of “the heat those in the kitchen are feeling daily” is the education deficiency, and I am sorry to harp on it, but I maintain it is an education death sentence for those children already at a disadvantage in the socio-economic wilderness. That is just plainly wrong.
It took this Government nearly all of its preceding five-year term to hear and heed that there was such a wilderness before appointing a Community Recovery Committee and subsequently appointing a heavily blinkered Minister of Youth Development, whose patronising assessment of an “able-bodied” man, who had approached him for a lil $20 to buy something to eat, caused significant outrage.
Regarding the continuing cruel and discriminatory online education deficiency, I read in the Newsday last Sunday, directly relevant to what I had written in this column that very day, that the Ministry of Education was now acknowledging the deficiency in possession of devices for online learning by reference to actual figures.
The bottom line is that of the 65,000 pupils without devices in October 2020, roughly half of them would receive devices. So 30,000-plus pupils still have no devices. When will the Education Ministry officials also tell us how many pupils have no connectivity?
They should read again the advice of President Weekes “to stop being so secretive, (except in the interest of national security) paranoid and dismissive of the anxieties of our citizens”. Then they might also acknowledge that we cannot find an approach to end the cruelty and discrimination against our children, until disclosure of all the requirements to make online learning real for all.
I have asserted that the giving of devices in photo-ops is a corporate and political fantasy because the connectivity problem does not appear to be receiving priority. I was comforted when I read a piece in the Los Angeles Daily News, sent to me by a reader, which stimulated further enquiry.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest public school district in the United States. With reference to the disparities in access to devices and connectivity, a lead researcher into inequities in distance learning for minority pupils in Los Angeles put it this way: “If schools are expected to contribute to social mobility and create lifelong opportunities for children, there needs to be a concerted effort at federal, state and local level to address these disparities.”
In Los Angeles, public/private sector co-operation to close the digital divide has led to collaboration with wireless communication companies to provide mobile hotspots for the disadvantaged pupils. Are we capable of a similar initiative? Don’t we have hotspots for Carnival celebrations?