STREET VIBES: Backward Garcia must go if we are to go forward

The old adage “If yuh cyah beat them, join them” can be heard loud and clear behind the latest statement by that dinosaur OJT who has somehow found himself at the helm of education in Trinidad and Tobago.

Instead of seeking to find creative ways of treating with the Ministry of Education’s inability to deal with the increased violence in the nation’s schools, he lambastes all forms of media for carrying stories about fights; the media, he seems to be saying, are at fault for seeking to fulfill the part of their mandate which involves reporting on items they deem newsworthy. Accusing the media of “sensationalizing the whole thing as if it is a big scourge on our education system,” he resorts to the arrogant managerial style so beloved by his party and shoots the messenger.

Photo: Education Minister Anthony Garcia.

It is apparent that the Minister of Education thinks that the fights we witness in the nation’s schools are quite okay, acceptable even. This dinosaur OJT even cites his youthful experiences to support the idea that fighting is perfectly normal. The geriatric OJT goes on to declare that “…even today, I would like to fight.”

It is already a challenge for him to remain awake in Parliament so what type of fight is he referring to? Perhaps he means a stick fight because he did tell the nation not so long ago, did he not? that he is a “good woodsman.”

Applying the Minister’s dinosaur logic, it is easy to understand the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s (TTPS) attitude to victims of domestic violence; after all, is it not acceptable for men to beat women? When a woman makes a report that she has been abused, she is not infrequently instructed, we are told, to “go back home and make up with yuh man.”

If it is true that in the Cabinet they see nothing wrong with such fundamentally flawed, “she-look-fuh-dat” reasoning, then our women and our children in particular have every reason to be scared.

I too recall early childhood experiences which made it seem quite normal and acceptable for women to be beaten. Indeed, so entrenched in society did that thinking become that even today many women take the view that “If he doh beat mih, he doh love mih.”

Photo: A female victim of domestic abuse.

And reinforcement of that message was not uncommon. “Black up deh eye, bruise up deh knee,” one of Sparrow’s calypsoes of yesteryear says, “then they’ll love you eternally.” So, trained to equate love with licks, some people are still unable to make the transition from a world that was to the world that is.

On the evidence, at least one of those “some people” is in the nation’s Parliament. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, in Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s Cabinet.

Also worth noting is the fact that many parents continue to beat their children “because we love them.” They zealously advocate corporal punishment, citing all the while good books which speak of sparing the rod and spoiling the child. Such mixed messages evidently sow confusion in young minds, which then go on to become minds of adults who believe that love must hurt; if it doesn’t, then it’s not true love.

And so the cycle of domestic abuse is perpetuated.

Bullying is merely another side of the domestic abuse coin; it is no more acceptable than any other type of abuse. But that is not a view shared by the dinosaur clan.

Now, I understand how difficult it must be for many members, men in particular, of the Baby Boom generation to make the transition from a patriarchal world to one where equality and equity are necessary, a world where women are now our equals and must be treated as such. Anything less is unacceptable.

Photo: A civil engineer.

For many men, this can be quite terrifying. And the only effective, durable solution is education. As a sociologist, I am clear that most of the challenges we face in this nation are rooted in our dysfunctional education system. Our continuing failure to get the formative years right has resulted in what we are experiencing today. I have on many occasions quoted Ella Andall’s warning about “a missing generation.”

The dinosaur currently at the helm of education has been and continues to be unable to deal with the issues plaguing the nation’s schools. It is quite obvious that he simply doesn’t have what it takes or what is required to lead this generation, missing or present, to a place of safety.

Our population now numbers almost one and a half million people. Anyone who sincerely believes that we cannot find anyone capable of doing not just a better job—which is really no challenge—but a good job needs to revise his traditionalist views.

Trinidad and Tobago can no longer allow itself to be held hostage by the continued presence in a major institution such as education of a geriatric OJT.

Grounded—not to say ‘mired’—in an era long gone, Anthony Garcia has outlived his usefulness. He lacks the intellectual wherewithal to make the transition into the 21st Century.

He should, Mr Prime Minister, be retired forthwith.

More from Wired868
Daly Bread: If ministers feel “helpless” about crime, then what now?

With great dismay last Tuesday, I read the lamentation of three government ministers concerning the state of crime in Trinidad Read more

Noble: What auditor general impasse says about the quality of our leaders

The ongoing saga of the auditor general and the understatement of the country’s revenue reveal the quality of our leaders. Read more

Remembering Teacher Percy and our journey into education

Bring back the old-time days… Do you remember the primary school days when we sat in the dusty school yard Read more

Vaneisa: Paying to learn—the lingering issue with VAT on books

In the late 1990s, in response to one of my weekly columns, retired Professor Emeritus Desmond Imbert called me. It Read more

Daly Bread: Government extends blame game while crime rampages on

For some weeks this column had been focused on the good, the bad and the ugly of Carnival and its Read more

Dear Editor: Broad hair guidelines no match for racist beliefs: how MOE erred

“[…] The official Ministry of Education press release announcing the hair code […] works to trivialise the issue and divorce Read more

Check Also

Daly Bread: If ministers feel “helpless” about crime, then what now?

With great dismay last Tuesday, I read the lamentation of three government ministers concerning the …


  1. shocked at all the school violence

  2. How come schools in Norway, Finland, Sweden etc don’t have our kind of problems? Impossible does not exist in today’s world. if it can be conceived in the mind it can be accomplished. The only limits are in our mindset.

  3. I agree Christian, but I am surprised by the comments in support of Garcia’s position on the matter. If Trinidadians’ strategy for change is doing things exacyly the same way as before, then they need to stop complaining and enjoy the country they live in, flaws and all!

  4. Vernal there were consequences. Trying to stop kids from fighting is impossible. Corrective action goes a long way and must involve both parent and teacher involvement with positive intent

  5. Justifying school violence by saying “I used to fight in school” is the same as justifying poor education by saying “I used to break biche”.
    Just because you did it doesn’t make it right!

  6. It’s amazing how so few fail to see the correlation between childhood violence and the criminal violence plaguing T&T.
    I swear to God there must be something in the tap water.

  7. In my day (@ 63) we used latrine and gazette paper, tote water and caught fish in the nearby ravines which we raised in containers. We walked to most places within distance and the community had the right to whip our behind for any perceived wrongdoing.
    Today I don’t even know my neighbors, so giving anyone the right to beat my grandchildren is out of the question.
    The world, indeed T&T, has changed dramatically since the 60s, 70s, 80s even 90s. Yet our education system is mired in an era of dinosaurs training people for factory work based on a model of regurgitation, as opposed to creating a nation of critical thinkers, with analytical skills who can survive or excel in a world a long way from “my days” in school.
    The thinking which got us to thins point cannot get us out. We need critical thinkers who people will tinker with the system hoping “to get it right.” There is no “right” in today’s dynamic world; for as soon as we get it right, we will realize that the formula has expired and it needs to be revisited.
    Licks, indeed fighting in school, which was acceptable in my days, has no place in a civilized world as we seek to make the world a better place. Education is the only option to accomplish this. And it as to be done with care, concern and, yes, love.

  8. Agree Lasana. We would get strokes though, not sure if the kids of today get strokes for fighting. Any weapon involvement was automatic suspension to return with your parents. My parents would have well blazed me had I gotten suspended for fighting lol

  9. Agree with Garcia to a point. There were fights in my day and next week we kicking ball together. Sometimes the media over do it

  10. This minister needs to resign and enjoy his old age he’s very incompetent

  11. while the minister is categorically correct i question his timing ala St Anthonys

    • That’s the thing. I didn’t catch the context in terms of what he was responding to. I haven’t been following the news as closely as I would like.
      So when he said there has always been fighting in school and the people are getting carried away because of the social media… I thought to myself: ‘True!’
      But I guess I have to check the context.

    • in my day we used to fight without weapons

    • Sorry I went Bourg we fought with weapons. The increase in gang culture was long inn coming ,bad parenting and abandoment of “it takes a village to raise a child” didn’t help

    • Joel don’t forget the badge of honour afforded to gang bosses by the term “community leader” although we might end up going off topic here.

    • Guys, we have a society beset by extreme acts of violence, every single day we wake up to news of extreme violent acts. You think all these offenders got up one morning after a life of peace and said to themselves “Yuh know what, I bored of being good, I going and fog up somebody”?
      Hell no.
      They had been refining their violence since childhood, the problem was adults saw it as a natural part of growing up and did nothing to correct it!

    • Vernal interesting point. I’d say that America glorifies violence from their cowboy and indian tales go forward. But then they surely aren’t a peace loving nation either.
      Interesting perspective.

    • Yes but violence isn’t tolerated in schools by any means Lasana, because it is understood that tolerating it there contributes to violence in adulthood. If school violence isn’t dealt with by school administrators the victim’s parents deal with it in court. Parents entrust their children to school staff with the understanding that they will be kept safe, but that seems far from the truth in Trinidad, what’s worse is that few see anything wrong with that … certainly not the Minister of Education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.