Readin’, ritin’ and ‘ritmetic: Here’s to a successful school year

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The new 2019/2020 school year is all of one week old, and from appearances, the students, faculty and parents are ready and rarin’ to go. We here at NEWSCO would like to wish all our students and teachers a most enjoyable and successful one. And we believe that, with a little more effort, they will. And yes, they began on the right foot. Many churches around our fair state invoked the providential care and guidance of the Almighty by holding special services where students and teachers were blessed. All well and good!

But the saying that “Heaven helps those who help themselves.” still holds true, and it appears as though, over the long summer recess, we do not do all that we could have done to help ourselves. Apparently, some of our school buildings are still in a state of disrepair. And those that were being hastily repaired just before schools were set to reopen, are being given shoddy, haphazard treatment. That is certainly not good enough. For example, on the first day of school last week, we heard complaints from parents of an abominable road leading to the Sir Novelle Richards Academy, and yesterday we learned of the delays at the Antigua State College. Sigh. This is a pathetic movie that we have seen before at the beginning of every school year, and it certainly sets a lacklustre tone for the rest of the term. Think of it: if the students get the sense that nobody cares – not the teachers, not the parents, not the Ministry of Education, not the Ministry of Works, they too will adopt a disinterested attitude. It trickles down.

Meanwhile, consider this lighthearted look at at what happens when our education officials and teachers lose focus on the things that are really important. We know what happened when Teacher Mildred, of the Mighty Sparrow fame, appeared more concerned with the lizard than with teaching and maintaining order. In fact, Ruth, she of the frisky lizard, and the other students were quite surprised that “Instead of beating, she [Teacher Mildred] gi recess.” Of course, we’re being facetious, but you get the point. Students are taking their cue from the teachers.

      And yes, students will perform at their best at those subject areas for which they have an aptitude, and they ought not to be discouraged by their teachers. For example, Bill Trotman says in BACK TO SCHOOL, “Mami, mami, I want to go back to school /Mami, mami, staying home aint to cool / I want you to understand / I need an education / I want to learn to beat pan / To be a calypsonian /But what I really, really love de best / Is to be in school in time for recess.” (Chuckle)

       Oh to be young and carefree at heart yelling at the top of our lungs, “In days of old when men were bold and paper was not yet invented . . .” or to be running across a schoolyard playing Hoop-hoop Dolly Catcheror Dodge-ball or Jump Rope! How about the idyllic days spent singing, “Green as grass white as snow – sour sop /Where does a poor man handle plenty dough – in a baker’s shop” or “Friends, Romans, countrymen the world is a stage / To do or not to do; this is the question / The quality of mercy is not strained . . .” Ah, the memories! We concur with Sparrow that our schooldays were indeed HAPPY DAYS, and we wonder if the children of today are having as much fun as we did back in our time. Ah, the unbridled joy that we derived from shouting, “Dan is de man in de van /Twisty and twirly were two screws / Can a pig dance a jig for a fig . . .?”  (DAN IS DE MAN, Sparrow)

Actually, much like the Mighty Dougla, we have often cast a wistful eye back, as did he when he declared, “For the new year, it’s a new rule / Little children going to work, big men going to school / I want my teacher to be a lady / I don’t want no man as teacher teach me / Ah armed with meh books, meh pen and ruler / But de de biggest thing in school is meh school teacher . . . / Monday morning, bright and early is spelling / You can imagine then how Dougla was hidin /Ah cyan spell A-T or B-A-T, but ah notice teacher getting very F-A-T / She say you doesn’t know a line in your Geography / Yet yuh notice everyting that happen to me / Ah say well teacher dat ain’t for me /But ah very very bright in Biology . . .” (TEACHER,TEACHER)Good grief! No wonder Woman Teacher Maxwell had to exhort, “Have control or de devil go take your soul!” (SEX EDUCATION, Sparrow)

      But we digress with the nostalgia and levity. On a serious note, one would have thought that with the grand and historic opening of the fourth landed campus of the University of the West Indies at Five islands, that the impetus and enthusiasm would be there to make some physical improvements to the primary and secondary schools from which many of the prospective Five Islands UWI students will hail. After all, a good physical learning environment can go a long way towards producing better outcomes. Sadly, some in officialdom do not see it quite that way.

The overcrowding at the Ottos Comprehensive School and the Princess Margaret School is also a cause for concern, and we certainly trust that that impediment to learning will be remedied as a matter of urgency. So too the eBooks lack of relevant content and their risible history of working when they feel like. All the eBook jokes are no longer funny. We call on the Ministry of Education to “Fix om!”

If some of these vexing problems are addressed, we submit that this will be a most delightful and productive school year 2019/2020. Indeed! Pass the clean slate and the slate pencil. Time for ritin’.

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