Last week, there was high level recognition of the relevance of the steelband movement to sustainable development goals, even though our governments have not published implementable policies for the mutual and sustainable benefit of communities and steelpan music participants—such as players, arrangers, tuners and tutors.
By a resolution passed on Monday 24 July, the United Nations (the UN) declared the date 11 August and annually thereafter as World Steel Pan Day from 2023.
The resolution was the result of our Government’s request, made in October 2022, to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The resolution arose out of a pitch to the UN, which stated that:
“The pan meaningfully contributes towards the UN’s 2030 Agenda and its sustainable developments goals (SDGs), specifically in respect of the maintenance of good health and well-being (SDG 3), providing educational opportunities, particularly for those children and youth that may not be academically inclined (SDG 4), promoting gender equality (SDG 5), and fostering sustainability within and among communities (SDG 11).”
What is the reality of the Government’s investment in these goals?
It is officially acknowledged that the proposal to seek UNESCO support was inspired by representations initiated by the World Steelpan Thrust, a non-governmental organisation.
It is to be expected that the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts will repeat its thanks to the World Steelpan Thrust for what the Ministry previously described as that Organisation’s “vision, foresight and ingenuity”.
The Minister may do so perhaps on the occasion of the celebrations announced by Pan Trinbago for this coming 11 August.
My path and that of World Steelpan Day have intersected. At a partly virtual event on 11 August 2020, I had the honour of being the feature speaker on the second World Steelpan Day organized by the Board of the World Steelpan Thrust at Pan Trinbago headquarters.
Very recently I was happy to do public service by giving some constructive legal advice to Pan Trinbago in connection with the formal declaration of pan as the national instrument.
Some of my remarks in August 2020 focused on the need to embrace pan and the panyards as agents of change, related to socio-economic development and behaviour.
I repeated my well-known views that the Development Ministries need to understand the uplifting aspects of music and dance and to encourage its pursuit, particularly by the unloved and alienated children in our society.
Within well-organized panyards, persons serve as mentors and there are also homework centres for youngsters.
Musical education can facilitate the development of children whose motivation to learn is undermined by the persistence of the schools force-feeding an exam-oriented grammar school-type education. Not every child has an aptitude for such a regime, but that does not mean that those children are dull or worthless.
At the recent and very expensive Caricom Heads of Government Conference, several regional prime ministers spoke of the need to reform the narrow education curriculum.
Our governments seem deaf to that urgent need as well as to the likely connection between school dropouts and gang membership.
How can we honestly represent to an international audience that our governments are using pan music and panyards to “provide educational opportunities, particularly for those children and youth that may not be academically inclined (SDG 4)”?
During the course of last week, Pearl Eintou Springer asserted that: “I think the education system is complicit in the criminalisation of young black people. I feel this very strongly. I know from working with young people that art and culture are ways of getting young people to know themselves and strive.”
The unreformed, fossilized education system is part of the wider failure to treat with the oppressive socio-economic conditions in which so many children grow up without a semblance of equality of opportunity and are subject to abuse and alienation.
Such failure renders hollow the claim of “fostering sustainability within communities”.
There are therefore serious inconsistencies between what was pitched to the UN and the reality of the lack of government action to assist with the contribution of pan music to sustainable development.
Will the policies for implementation of the sustainable implementation goals be published?