R. Rose
June 24, 2016

Fruits of the Education Revolution

I went to the Victoria Park on Tuesday afternoon this week to witness the graduation of some 700 plus students from the amalgamated Community College, a grandson of mine being among them. It was the first time that I had attended such a function and, in spite of no longer being a big event person, I was quite moved, for a number of reasons.

I lived close to the Park in my teen years and shared the exhilaration of many of my generation of early morning football, flannel ball cricket on Sundays and holidays, the regulars having to stamp their presence if you were to get space to play.{{more}} The same Park had spawned the unforgettable and unmatched Notre Dame champion team of the sixties, perhaps our finest product as a club team.

It was also the home of Carnival, as it still is today, host to kings and queens, to the “Golden Age of India”, the history of Aztecs and Incas, Mexican Zapatas, but as well the great civilizations of Timbuktu, the Zulu Kingdoms, and our own indigenous antecedents. Victoria Park, true to its colonial legacy, also entertained the glories of ancient Greece and Rome, and even the cowboys of the “Wild West,” originating, in our case, out of the Dorsetshire Hill region.

These are all part of our historical experience as a people, and a fundamental part of our education. So it is perhaps fitting that the same Park (some of us clamour for its renaming after one of our own) should accommodate hundreds of the beneficiaries of our Education Revolution. A very emotional experience it was too, with the thousands of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties and ‘nen-nens’, enjoined with peers of the graduates, relatives and well-wishers, basking in the pride of their achievements.

If, in the difficult times that we face, we are unsure about the future of our country, the scope and depth of the fields of study, still limited, but growing for a country like ours, such exposures can only help to build our confidence in facing the future and our faith in the youth of the country. Whatever our shortcomings, in the field of education, economically, socially and politically, the Community College is helping to equip us to be able to meet our challenges and to overcome them. Congrats to all involved in the process!

Much has been said, including in negative terms, about the Education Revolution in St Vincent and the Grenadines. However, what better demonstration of its success than not just the turnout of graduates, but the degree to which such academic achievement is being appreciated among the general population. This is a country which is being rapidly transformed from a stage where secondary education was considered a privilege, to one where university education is being gradually accepted as an accessible right.

We have come from a stage where in my lifetime, secondary school education was considered privilege, where now, irrespective of social station, one can aspire; the sky is the limit. For this we must applaud the efforts of Prime Minister Gonsalves, in particular and his administration, in general. This, of course, does not indicate that there are not areas of weakness, that all is “bright and beautiful”, that there are not areas that we ought to address.

But the reality is that we have an ever-growing pool of multi-disciplined graduates, well-placed to propel our educational and social development. This is a solid investment in resource development, producing valuable social capital. How we utilize these talents, and employ them in the pursuit of national development, provide a decent life for all our people, will greatly influence our success in being able to fend for ourselves, to build our economies and provide opportunities for the youth, the future of our nation.

Finally, the biggest tribute of all must go to the students who worked so hard to achieve what they have done so far, but most importantly, to parents, guardians and extended families who have sacrificed much to enable these graduates to advance. Graduates must never forget this; a lot of untold and unseen blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice are behind your successes. Do the same to those who follow you and remember, your nation’s meagre resources were expended to give you a chance at success.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.