A few weeks ago, at an Operation Rescue meeting, I made a remark that I later regretted. I have been waiting for an opportunity to withdraw that remark, made in the passion of political rhetoric, but since Operation Rescue has not held a meeting for a while, I have decided to do my damage control in my column, to quickly clear things up and make things right. I was addressing young people, particularly those who Dr Douglas had offered work on the PEP program. I was offering them something better than the minimum wage bribe that the Prime Minister has come up with once again, the fourth time in 18 years. I was offering them an education. An offer of schooling to young people who had left school disenchanted and disillusioned is not exactly something that such young people would jump up and raise their hands for. Some of them, having recently left school, have very scarred memories of their school days. Others who left school a bit longer have memories that are even more deeply seared in their psychology. Having gone through the indignity of dropping out of high school, they tend to regard any educational proposal with suspicion, as if a joke is being made at their expense. It is therefore necessary to sugar-coat the invitation with all the positives of a salesman. I have had to do this repeatedly over my long experience in teaching and rehabilitating high school failures. One of my favourite approaches is to recite for them the possibilities in life which a good education offers, the big pay that accountants earn along with the other comforts like air-conditioned offices, free cars and medical aid, and the whole packet of goodies available to the well-educated. I usually top up my talk by naming some of the most successful. When we reach a bad patch in the lesson and we fall into a rut, I try to inspire them with the success story of one or more of my former students. Ericson James was not exactly a High School dropout when he came to me. He was a civil servant in the Department of Audit, but he wanted more subjects to qualify for more pay and promotion. I challenged him with a more visionary prospect. I told him to forget about increments and think about college. His incredulity reminded me of Samuel Simpson. Simpson had graduated from delivering “Brysons’to the cashier’s desk at the St Kitts Bottling Company before he was introduced to me. When I showed him an accounting procedure and advised him that he would meet it again at University, he looked up at me that instant and gasped,”University, Mr Archibald?”I think Ericson was more impressed by the story of his fellow villager who was forced to leave high school and found her first job in the cane field serving water to the cutters. As she walked home from work one day, my late friend Cecil Edwards stopped to give her a lift. She thanked him profusely in cultivated English expressing her gratitude to be sheltered from the blazing sun on the country road. Cecil was surprised and impressed by her style of language. One day she found me and reported that Mr Edwards had sent her. The encounter changed her life forever. I tell these stories to motivate my students to emulate those who fought against the odds and triumphed and when I mentioned Elvis Newton and Gary Thomas my intention was to let the young people know that they don’t have to lap up the Douglas crumbs scattered about to bribe them to support him in office; that there is better in store for them if they follow the good example of those who went before. I meant no disparagement of Elvis or Gary and I sincerely apologise to them if what I said made them sore. All I really meant to do was use them as good examples, worthy of emulation. Both gentlemen are my good friends; for both of them I have the greatest respect and I am extremely proud to have played an important role in their development. I hold them up as good models for our young people particularly those who are pinned within the cycle of poverty, because of poor education. The lesson that can be gleaned from the achievements of these men and others like them is that poverty cannot keep you down if you get an education. When Elvis Newton was in the Fifth Form of the Basseterre High School, the school was experiencing some administrative hiccups. Some of the fifth formers met this concern by asking their parents to send them to me for help. Some even came from the Fourth Form where they secured early successes in a few subjects and moved with confidence to the next level. One of them, Jevon Hanley, was dropped from the examinations class as unfit to do exams. His father, Inspector Hanley sent him to me. We arranged a program of afternoon classes in subjects for which I had registered him. When the time for sixth form registration arrived, Jevon turned up to register. The teachers thought he was crazy until he placed his Cambridge results before them. We joked about the look on their faces as they were cornered into endorsing him for the sixth form. He did very well, proceeding to college in the United States. One of my treasured trophies is his Dean’s List Certificate that he sent to me to keep. Newton did not come to me until he neared the end of the fifth form, but his mom stopped him because I was a PAM. As a result, he left school without fulfilling his maximum potential. This time his mom recanted her earlier position; he came back, made a success of this second chance and got his first job as a young teacher. His mom was very pleased. She called me to thank me for the part I had played in her son’s life and gave me $50 dollars from his first month’s pay. Elvis went from strength to strength, and never looked back. Gary came later. He had been to the Basseterre High but had failed to get English which was a prerequisite for job entry. I did to him what I had done to Ericson. I challenged him to do more than just get English. When he left my hands he had a collection of Advanced Levels including Economics. I don’t think Dr Douglas cares about the population getting a good modern education. I think he is more interested in “Education for politics’than he is in “Education for national development”. So he divides our youth population into two; a small segment and a much larger group. He uses the help of foreign donor countries to offer scholarships to the small segment. He claims credit for their overseas education and recruits them into an elitist cadre, to pursue his diabolical intentions of setting up a dictatorship. Meanwhile the high schools tumble out a horde of under-achieving youth without job prospects, to idle their time away in unproductive existence. Douglas likes this. This multitude of non-achieving young people is a rich resource of unemployed young adults on which to draw every now and then when an election approaches. The youth have no choice but to dance to the crack of his whip. Some of them are in the third year of unemployment; in their enforced idleness they have parented children. In their deep need they accept his crumbs and in their vulnerability, they even agree to vote for his party. They gyrate to his vulgar music and then without even listening to the debate on the issues, go blindly to an election booth. These poor unfortunate young people even allow themselves to be “assigned’to vote, illegally, in places where they should not. Mr Geoffrey Hanley, one of the elite, leads the Douglas advance brigade, peddling the virtues of cutting grass for six months prior to the elections. He is one of the agents of the Douglas political organization the purpose of which is to keep our people in slavery, and Dr Douglas in power. Starting of course with the mass of our young people. Mr Osmond Petty, a former Douglas educator, actually referred to this mass of undereducated young people as “dregs”. The ever ready mass of unemployed youth who flock to Dr Douglas for work is ample proof that there is really no well-designed education policy which aims at educating the population for good jobs, self-employment, and national development. As I said earlier, after that unexciting saga of under-achievement at the high schools, young peopl
e need a lot of encouragement to escape the bondage of Denzil Douglas. They need the triumphant tales of those who went before, such icons as Elvis Newton, Gary Thomas, and Ericson James, to spur them on and keep their eyes on the prize.