Back to basics

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It would be fair to say most of us have an aversion to going backwards. We chart our progress in life by the number of steps we make in a forward motion, and any backward move is considered retrogression.

In some circles, the revolutionary cry of the former Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, ”Forward ever, backward never,” will continue to echo down the ages. He called on his people to eschew the old policies of the past and look to the philosophy he espoused. He was unsuccessful in his mission, and his short life ended tragically.

Then there is the Biblical tale of Lot’s wife, who did the unthinkable, she looked back regretfully at what she was leaving behind and suffered for her actions.

From our observations, there are more than a few people, in this country, who see no virtue in looking back, who think that modern and new are the ultimate in progress, and that this nation’s guiding mantra should be the “bigger and better than them” chant.

Recent ongoing stories in the news have got us to thinking that perhaps we need to take more than a few steps backwards, with a view to determining just how to proceed in our quest to be perceived as a progressive society.

This past week there has been an ongoing debate on government’s new e-books initiative. The roll-out has had three start dates and the last that was heard is that it has been postponed again. More importantly, perhaps, is that so very little is known about the initiative – rumours innuendos and speculation rule the roost.

We, at OBSERVER, have been left to form our own opinions, and based on reports from the experts who have weighed in, we can only conclude that our education system is unprepared to launch, much less implement e–books in all government secondary schools at this time.  Much work still needs to be done.

The panellist on Sunday’s Big Issues gave more than fresh perspectives when they articulated just what is involved if we are to successfully achieve the goals of this laudable initiative. Needless to say, from all that we have heard, we have come up woefully short in the preparatory phase of the project, and as old people say, ”wha done gone bad a morning, can’t come good a evening”.

For as long as we can remember, the examination results at both the primary and CSEC levels from government-run institutions leave a lot to be desired. The number of passes in the core subject areas is unacceptable. After each examination, plans are announced for this or that remedial action, but come the next examination, the end result is that too many of our students continue to fail, or do poorly.

How will the use of e- textbooks halt the slide, or better yet, improve the results drastically? One expert noted the jury is still out on an experiment using e-books in schools in Jamaica. The question to be asked is: where should our focus be? Aren’t we better off seeing to our children’s learning at the base level, using traditional books, before jumping off into this realm; especially as there were no pilots to see exactly what are the pitfalls of this programme?

Looking towards the medical field, we, like everyone else, were in admiration of the giant leap into medical transplants which this country achieved last month. We have been apprised that this is to continue and expand to heart transplants. Very commendable indeed! However, there are patients who still complain of the long wait times at the hospital, the shortage of the most basic  medicines and the inability of the labs to carry out tests to make proper diagnoses.

So, can we take a few steps backwards and examine just where this nation needs to go in ensuring proper, basic health care for its citizenry? The notoriety this country will achieve by doing transplants will not necessarily translate into better health care for its people. Making sure that the facilities and personnel are in place, such that our citizens receive optimal health care is of paramount importance.

It has long been decided that our future is bound up in the tourism sector. Since taking office, the current administration has made it clear that that is where all our eggs will be. There have been multiple ground-breakings, the latest being yesterday. But have the authorities noticed how unkempt the country looks? Are we blind to the squalour which is St John’s, and the overall shabbiness of the country?

How proud can we be if we can only boast of that many five-star properties, and the country’s appearance leaves much to be desired? Can we take a good hard look at Antigua & Barbuda and go back to basics where cleanliness counts and civic pride is at the forefront of our daily existence?

And while we are at it, how about a constant steady supply of water and safe pothole free roads?  We can only hope that the much vaunted road programme comes to fruition, soon, for this powerhouse needs some good roads to get around.

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