By Dr Hollis ‘Chalkdust’ Liverpool, ORTT
Since writing on the esteemed work of PhDs and the ladder to be climbed to attain same, in a roti shop in Diego Martin last week, I was bombarded by a gentleman who wanted to know how long it would take him to reach the PhD award, and whether the University of the West Indies (UWI) advertises openings for people to get master’s degrees, so that they can go on to complete the doctorate. He was shocked to know that both UWI and UTT offer master’s programmes (MA) in several disciplines. Furthermore, he was astounded and stood with his mouth open when I informed him that the national university, UTT, is the only one in this whole, wide world that offers an accredited Master of Arts (MA) in Carnival Studies.
While speaking to him and the further questions he asked pertaining to cost, the curriculum, the geographical classrooms of learning, the qualifications of the lecturers, the method of application and the courses to be studied within the programme, it dawned on me that there must be hundreds of persons like him ignorant of UTTs postgrad programmes, and hundreds more who would like to get the opportunity to become PhDs, but are ignorant of the road. Of course, I informed him that the road begins with a student having the seed of commitment to education to sow on soil watered by his or her parents and nurtured by primary school teachers with reading skills and values of honesty, Godliness, and the will to be disciplined. As I spoke to my information-seeker, however, Mr Jack Warner’s image flashed across my mind, for Jack Warner informed me earlier this year that UTT was sitting on a gold mine regarding its programme on Carnival Studies. Jack further felt that the cost of a PhD in Trinidad and Tobago was too cheap. ‘’Don’t advertise the cost,’’ Jack exclaimed, because ‘’it so cheap Americans would flood this place.’’
Well, Covid-19 has forced Americans from flooding this place and forced us too at UTT to go online with the programme quicker than we had planned two years ago, so that any university graduate in the humanities especially, now has the opportunity, after an interview, to join our class (we started this week) and avail himself or herself of the opportunity to complete a Master’s degree in Carnival Studies. With this award, they can go on, hopefully, to study for a doctorate, mainly in the social sciences and the humanities. I stress the humanities because applications to carry out doctoral studies in other disciplines at universities here or overseas – be they medicine, health, science, botany, law, computer studies, biomedical studies, engineering – demand different guidelines and qualifications for entry. In addition, some realms of learning further demand that students study certain secondary school subjects to gain entry to their disciplines. I recall, however, a medical doctor telling me that, aiming to become a medical doctor, he studied biology at St Mary’s college. At university in Ireland, he was amazed to find that several medical students in his class had studied only languages at secondary school.
Well, with Covid-19, we may not have Carnival in 2021, but we will surely have Carnival Studies at UTT whereby students will get the opportunity over the next two years to look more closely at Carnival’s origin and development, Caribbean history, Academic writing, Mas’ camps, Panyards, Calypso tents, the History of the steelband, the History of the calypso, Caribbean music, Themes in Calypso, Methods of Research, Writing empirical research reports, Ethnomusicology, the Social Sciences and their links to carnival, and of course, the Business of carnival. Above all, students will have the pleasure of researching their interests whether such be policy making, institutions, masqueraders, calypsonians, steelbandsmen, musicians, carnival events, bandleaders, promoters, environmentalists, dance, nutrition, sound, tourism, instruments, designs, finance, economics, sociology, festivals or any cultural area of life itself, for the width of carnival crosses boundaries too numerous to mention.
The examiner for the programme, Professor Gary Garcia, keeps telling me that when will someone research the life of Trinidadian Edmundo Ross who, many may not know, heard his first notes in music in the Dry River, in Port of Spain, behind the Bridge, as the several old pans and bottles juggled for space in the dirty water, shades of Lord Kitchener’s Mystery band. When will someone research the lives of Errol Ince, Art DeCoteau, Lord Kitchener, Ivan Williams, John Cupid, Cito Velasquez, George Bailey, Boogsie Sharpe, Edgar Whiley, Caniff Bomparte, Chinee Patrick, Tobago’s tambrin, Hugh Borde, Othello Mollineau, Sterling Betancourt, Pete Simon, Roy Augustus, Keith Smith, Albert Gomes, Lance Heath, Rudy Piggott, Austin Nolte, Andrew Carr, Andrew Labastide, Glen Roach, Bruce Procope, Abyssinia in Tobago, Geraldo Viera, M.P Alladin, Isaiah Boodoo, Jit Samaroo, Bobby Mohammed, Spree Simon, and Boscoe Holder, men who have contributed so much to carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. In the field of women, what of Lady Trinidad, Lady Iere, Pat Bishop and Merle Albino DeCoteau? When will we write about all these great contributors to the humanitarian life of Trinidad and Tobago? The MA in Carnival Studies can be the researched answer. I therefore exhort all undergrads to go online now and apply.
Just this week, Gil Figaro, the founder of Sunshine Awards in New York was telling me that the ‘’erudite’’ Trinidadian priest, Dom Basil Matthews, explained to a university conference on economic planning initiated by Dr Eric Williams at Howard University way back in 1943, that unless students are bathed in the culture of their land, they are not educated. It is something that many of our educators today have not yet learned. I recall Professors Brinsley Samaroo and Ken Ramchand (PhDs all) preaching to the pioneers of UTT that engineers and natural science personnel need to be exposed to culture and cultural courses to make them culturally literate and thereby develop in a manner that is whole and not one-sided.
I would hope, then, that because our carnival is so culturally linked with all our social and cultural lives in Trinidad and Tobago, the NCC, TUCO, Pan Trinbago, the NCBA, the T&TCBA, COTT, the National Chutney Foundation, the Secretary of the Tobago Assembly and the four Ministers of Culture, Education, Planning, Youth Development and National Service, would all find it fitting to sponsor at least one of their employees to attend the carnival course by way of a scholarship. What an opportunity for our young graduates to understand life and God’s gifts to us in this part of the world. Above all, with lecturers such as Dr Rudy Ottley, Dr Kela Francis (holders of PhDs), Ms Annette Fitzpatrick and yours truly, students will, by unravelling the carnival with a new lens, see themselves, their history, the history of our people, the contributions of Trinis to society, the contributions of Trinis to the Caribbean diaspora, the contributions of Trinis to technology and the social structure of our state, anew. Above all, they will be enabled to teach the youth, thereby fostering them with values that will lead the population to less crime, less racism, and increased love and justice for all. The MA in Carnival Studies is undoubtedly one of the roads in Trinidad and Tobago that serves to civilise our population and lead them to ‘’awake,’’ as Tagore has said, ‘’into that heaven of freedom.’’ Thoughts and views expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Observer NewsCo, its management or staff.