Daly Bread: What’s taking so long for mature conversation? And what next for the panyard model?

Of course I am delighted that our new and seventh president, Her Excellency Christine Kangaloo, advocated for the panyard development model as a means of dealing with youth at risk in her inaugural address.

For more than a decade, I have been advocating for the model’s recognition while describing real live success in those communities where the model is producing outstanding results, mainly on shoestring budgets. First, a postscript to the current rows about the office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

DPP Roger Gaspard.

Some diligent observers reminded me of an earlier verbal battle between the DPP and the Chief Justice (CJ) regarding the miniscule number of indictments filed by the DPP. This took place in 2020 and the DPP gave a number of reasons including the staff shortages in his office and the breakdown of an arrangement to accept electronic filings.

At that time, the DPP said he preferred mature private consultations but was reported to have said that he had to respond because of the public ringing of alarm bells that could not be addressed privately. (See Newsday 17 October 2020.)

At the current time the CJ, having repeated the same criticism of the DPP and added several others, has nevertheless expressed interest in “a mature conversation”.

What takes so long for these discussions to get going, almost three years having passed since the last public verbal battle?

Chief Justice Ivor Archie (second from left) walks with high court judges at the start of 2017-2018 law term.
(via newsday.co.tt)

A tolerably effective administration of criminal justice is a feature of “a real place”. Can we afford to do nothing while the lofty leaders play with words about the dreadful state of criminal justice like “near collapse”, “could completely collapse” and “deep failing across the board”?

Returning to President Kangaloo’s call, there are some co-incidences surrounding it—some happy, some cruel.

Happily, a mere seven weeks before the inauguration in a column published on 29 January this year entitled “The nurturing place”, I returned to the subject. On that occasion, I advocated the cause this way: “There is huge underlying worth in the discipline learned and practiced as part of a team and in the building of much needed self-esteem.”

President Christine Kangaloo (centre) takes the oath of office while Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and Chief Justice Ivor Archie look on.
(Courtesy Office of the Prime Minister)

I made the case for “government support of the pro-active panyards, who can demonstrate track record in social development work beyond seasonal participation in carnival competitions.”

Cruelly, governments of two different stripes have been responsible for depriving the Pan-in-Schools programme of tutors, the most recent example described in the same column of 29 January this year. In addition to the developmental consequences, this gives an advantage to the schools that can raise significant funds privately when the annual Junior Panorama takes place.

What takes so long for someone in authority, including Pan Trinbago, to see the light shining from the panyard model?

Fortunately, the current president of Pan Trinbago, who has embraced President Kangaloo’s enthusiasm, has been reform-minded.

Pan Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore (centre) rewards the Uptown Fascinators during the 2023 Carnival season.
(via Pan Trinbago)

She yielded to entreaties encapsulated in this column “prime bands in prime time” and split the medium band and large band Panorama finals.

I have previously described the birdsong model of providing musical education, which includes successfully tutored youth at risk in its annual concert and which takes place after its summer camp. One time, before the pandemic, birdsong stunned us with a performance of the Fourth Movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony—a piece demonstrating the full orchestral capacity of pan, combined with other instruments.

The piece was performed under the baton of Maestro Jesus Acosta, a former member of the world-renowned El Sistema music programme in Venezuela, which provides opportunity and development for disadvantaged children and has adopted the motto “Music for Social Change”.

The birdsong Steel Academy plays Pan Magic, arranged by Andy Narell, at the 2015 Panorama Semifinals.
(Copyright John Schmidt/SeeTobago.org)

What next for the panyard model? Another committee? We do not know whether the Watkins Committee on Community Recovery has the panyard model in its report. It has never been released for our enlightenment.

The next step might be to draw up an inventory of those panyards that have sustained the work of providing homework centres and other activities catering to youth.

Given the obsession with grammar school education and “getting passes” to the detriment of technical-vocational education programmes, there may be a potential—transparently assessed and funded—for expansion of panyard activity into routes for youth to acquire competencies specific to particular types of occupations or trades.

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