Would patriotism trump prayer? Salaah suggests national service can save T&T

I strongly believe that a lack of patriotism is at the root of the decline of society. There is no sense in being a part-time believer. It is either you are a proponent or you are a foe; you are either for country or you are against country. There really is no neutral ground.

What we are seeing today is the decline of national pride. It is slowly being eroded and this weakening of our sense of nationalism will inevitably result in a loss of our identity as a people.

Photos: Patrons enjoy the festivities during Trinidad and Tobago's 2016 Independence Day Parade. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photos: Patrons enjoy the festivities during Trinidad and Tobago’s 2016 Independence Day Parade.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

How can we turn this around? It starts in the schools. Eleanor Roosevelt once opined that: “The teaching of citizenship in the schools must be supplemented by teaching and example in the home.” 

How long must we continue to preach that parents must play a vital part in training their children at home and not simply expect the teachers to teach them what they need to know at school?

If parents are unable to pay close attention to their children, especially those who are misguided and are bent on truancy and delinquent behaviour, then the need for some ancillary support system is more acute. It is for this reason that a clarion call should be made to introduce national service as an antidote to school acrimony and the dwindling of patriotism.

To build strong nations, it is essential that young people be given the right motivation and inspiration. Who does not already know what Dr Eric Williams told the nation’s schoolchildren on the occasion of the attainment of Independence in 1962?

“Your future lies in your school bags,” he declared.

The more I think about it, the more certain I am that I would have preferred him to say “Our future lies in your schoolbags.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's first Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams. (Courtesy Information Division)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s first Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams.
(Courtesy Information Division)

What Dr Williams added is less well known. “To increase student engagement and ownership of learning,” he said, “we should give students opportunities to do meaningful work, work that makes a difference locally, nationally, and globally.” In essence, that is a call for national service.

National service can create a greater good by giving concrete expression to what it means to be a patriot. I’m not calling for military or compulsory service. What I want to see is a programme which allows students who are in school and, perhaps more importantly, students who have dropped out of school for one reason or another to be brought back into the net via the programme.

It will have to be gender sensitive and be open as well to students who are living with disabilities. Students between 14 and 18 must be encouraged to attend these programmes during the long August vacation.

A properly designed national service programme would give students an opportunity to pursue careers and skills that employers increasingly say are vital in the workplace. Soft/life skills, leadership skills and technical skills can be taught.

It can create a sense of common purpose rooted in active citizenship and we can perhaps begin to reverse the growing discontent, the growing sense of disconnection so many young people seem to be experiencing today.

Photo: ISIS fighter Shawn Parson from Trinidad and Tobago was believed to have been killed by a US drone strike. (Copyright Ibtimes.co.uk)
Photo: ISIS fighter Shawn Parson from Trinidad and Tobago was believed to have been killed by a US drone strike.
(Copyright Ibtimes.co.uk)

National service can also lead to an empowering of the marginalised, which can enrich our democracy. By giving our young citizens a real stake in the future of their country, we can ensure they renew their civic identity while providing them with skills and experiences that they can use throughout their lives.

It might even be possible to introduce a kind of advanced level grouping where professionals who have already attained higher education and graduate qualifications in medicine, law, agriculture, engineering, etc—perhaps at the public expense—are given an opportunity to give one year’s service back to their communities and, by extension, their country.

Of course, this call for national service will have its critics. But can any nation that truly wants to grow afford to stymie the fostering of national pride?

And it is a fact that there are countries throughout the world where national service is not an option and where the result of such an initiative has been entirely positive. Particularly in these difficult economic times, national pride needs a push.

“Ask not what your country can do for you,” John F Kennedy urged Americans just around the time Dr Williams was talking to our schoolchildren, “but what you can do for your country.”

And the answer is not simply about energetically waving the National Flag or loudly reciting the Independence Pledge or lustily singing the National Anthem with your hand over your heart on 31 August.

Photo: Two spectators take a selfie during Trinidad and Tobago's 2016 Independence Day Parade celebrations. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Two spectators take a selfie during Trinidad and Tobago’s 2016 Independence Day Parade celebrations.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

It is about standing up and doing what is required to make Trinidad and Tobago the very best nation it can be. I believe that a proper programme of national service would enable our people, young and old, to accomplish that.

And that is why we as proud Trinbagonians must become advocates for it.

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  1. I think we should place emphasis early, on brownies, boyscouts, cadets, girl guides. Community sports etc, where children could interact with each other, rather than tablets and electronic games. Camps on school vacations etc. These activities will certainly help to make the transition national service more seamless.

  2. Many things starting from our homes including moral values respect for our elders and each other and be contented with what we own.the era i grew up in each morning lunch time and before we left for our homes we said a prayer i am not aware if that still exists in schools today these are the simple things that mean a lot in our life

  3. was suggested by Dr Lennox Bernard just before he was removed from the Senate by Presidant Carmona! Go figure!!!

  4. I say let’s give it a try, yes? Something seems to have gone missing from our very core! We need to focus on our “we-ness” as opposed to our “I-ness”.

  5. To even start pulling T & T back from the brink, we first have to start jailing politicians, recovering stolen money and seizing assets aquired illegally. Then start hanging murderers within 1 month of their crime and no bail for rapists and murderers. Execute those on death row, make some damn space in d jails. This is the short term solution! People praying donkey years now, is it any better than it was?, let that sink in for a moment, take all the time yuh need.

    • The problem is this country and many others, is that too many delinquent people making children, they liming on the block from the age of 4, they are not parented and they grow up like wild friggin animals, or like Hyenas in the Indian or African jungle. They then start terrorizing society. It must be a mandatory requirement that every child gets an education and every child be removed from parents who refuse to raise then properly. But all they want to do is open dey blasted leg and make children with some waste ah time man who eh wukin nowhere, and dem eh wukin either.

  6. Yea. The national service should be run by the army. 6 months of boot camp for everyone. Then they get to choose what kind of national service they want to do. In the hospital as an orderly or trainee nurse. As a forestry ranger Litter warden trainee farmer. Coast guard cadet traffic wardens. It doesn’t have to be military. But the discipline has to be done by the army

  7. Its the people at the top honesty to the public.people in government who openly thief millions of $$$$$ and walk away free. Contractors who get 60 million dollars for a 2 million dollar job the youths are very bright and when they see big thiefs getting away with it they do the Same .if the top can’t lead honestly how can anyone else stay honest

  8. Yes it starts in our Schools. THE TEACHING OF “NATIONAL HISTORY ” must become part of our Primary School curriculum. National Service comes after.

  9. The I mindset hurts the country

  10. Everytime I read these type of articles, I can only go back to parenting. We need parenting classes. Plus….we live in selfish times…me, me, me, me

  11. Who does the status quo benefit and what influence do they hold?


  13. My brother, who was a very wise man, defined a real crisis as a situation in which there are no right answers; Since whatever you do is going to be wrong, your real choice is therefore between the right wrong answer and the wrong wrong answer.

    That’s where Trinidad and Tobago found itself in September 2015, when we made the right wrong choice, and finds itself today, when we have a number of hard choices facing us.

    I don’t have any confidence in the authorities’ ability to make the right wrong choices but I hope they appreciate that they are going to make the wrong choice no matter what.

    And we, the ordinary citizens, need to understand that too.

  14. Removing prayer from schools (Government schools was the downward spiral) since the denominational schools continue to have prayer in their schools. Check out the problem schools. It is where politiicians made adhoc decisions and copied everything that was wrong with the US educational system and listening to the UN. Why didn’t we follow the European and ASIAN models who lead in the top 12 spots in the world today. the US is #13. Secondly we stopped singing and teachingthe patriotic songs in schools, Kids today don’t even know the song ‘Nations Dawning, the meaning of the colours of the Flag. History was replaced with social studies and Caribbean studies. who made all these decisons? As usual parents and teachers sat idly by and did nothing. NOW we BAWLING. I Agree sir, we have to start somewhere, but who have the testicular fortitude, Certainly not poltiicians. They don’t listen, they feel they always have answers, particularly if you don’t have a party card for either side . I continue to pray for my country

    • The story really doesn’t say anything about moving prayer or not using prayer though.

    • i took a que from norma Mosegue comment above . (PRAYER) We gotta try something, cant give up. I have a grand daughter in this madness, I’m concern about what we leaving for them. My parent left manners, dedication and persistency with us. This group of parents MAD,mad. when your child can do something wrong at school, bully , cheat or abuse their school mate and the parent can bring laywers on behalf of their untrained, spoiled kids, I know we reach.. RUDDERS’ MAD MAN RANT is applicable here. whey we going?

    • Right. I understand what you mean. Although we do have to hear the “bully’s” side of the story too before we can figure out what the problem is there. So that should help them find justice rather than the other way around.
      Once the disciplinarians are not easily intimidated of course.

    • The denominational schools have lots of incidents as well. They just get covered up. And you can’t make judgements because of the removal of prayer because the schools are far from homogeneous.

  15. Yes! We have to try EVERYTHING. Prayers, National Service, Apprenticeship, Another look at the “War On Drugs”… ideas should be welcome from every side, except from those who are profiting from things as they are now.

  16. Patriotism will not fix the disconnect, the rich get richer, and avoid jail time and consequences for any crimes, while the poor suffer and spend years trapped in the court system. First fix the system, make everyone feel as equals, end favoritism and nepotism and then maybe we will not have to implement another government funded gimme gimme scheme

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