George Lamming : Teach Caribbean History

                                                          The Caribbean Is One Nation.

by William Skinner

George Lamming
I recently read that the distinguished Caribbean novelist, thinker and defender of the oppressed, Mr. George Lamming state that:  ““The time is overdue for the Caribbean to be at the centre of the curriculum at all levels of the region’s education system, from primary to tertiary and not simply as a subject of geography but as an organic path in understanding who we are as one people.” (Trinidad Express Weds. Oct. 9Th.)He made this statement to Mr. Rickey Singh, one of the leading Caribbean journalists, in welcoming the Caribbean Court of Justice decision, which sided with Jamaican Shanique Myrie, in the now famous case brought against the Barbados government, involving treatment meted out to her by Barbados custom officials.
As the region tries its utmost to survive the ravages of the current recession, we have been fed an abundance of economics and the need to preserve and maintain healthy foreign exchange. We have also been bombarded with the need to look for alternative energy sources and to make both our public and private sectors function more efficiently.
However, progressive thinkers have maintained that while these positions on the economy are valid, the intended results cannot be achieved without reforming our education system. It is therefore no surprise that Lamming will call for the “Caribbean to be at the centre of the curriculum at all levels of the region’s education system…….” For too long, we have treated the Caribbean as a place that just popped up out of the ocean. Indeed, I was shocked when a regular columnist, in one of the leading newspapers in Barbados declared that slavery was nothing more than an interlude: “Our people need to know that their history did not begin with slavery, so we are not slaves by origin. Slavery was an interlude in our history; a terrible and difficult interlude, but an interlude nonetheless.” (R.E.Guyson Mayers, Barbados advocate 8/5/12). Such a cavalier approach to describing what slavery was shows the level of understanding some of us have of a period that brutally destroyed millions of Africans and left Afro Caribbean people with scars that are still with us today.
Our young people must be taught Caribbean studies from primary school and as Lamming suggests it must not be just “geography” but an “organic path to understanding who we are as one people." Perhaps Mr. Mayers, would have  avoided such a mistake, if he been properly taught Caribbean history. He would not have referred to such a long period of utter destruction as simply   “a terrible and difficult interlude, but an interlude nonetheless.”
It is therefore vitally important that progressive thinkers such as George Lamming continue to put regional matters in their proper perspective and do not allow those who are declaring the victory o’er and the battle won, to dangerously influence our region. The Caribbean stands on the brink of another wave of economic degradation if those who understand the importance of education in achieving sustainable development, are left out of or refuse to add their voices to the regional debate as to how we should indeed move forward as one people.
As we say in cricket, when a batsman is on top of the bowling:  George Lamming is seeing de ball like a breadfruit!

William Skinner is a commentator on Caribbean social, political and cultural issues.

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