There is a Barbadian term, hardly heard these days but which was commonly used up to a few years ago by grown-ups, especially parents to describe children who were determined to have their way and stubbornly refused to heed well-meaning advice and instruction. They were described as “hard ears”.
For displaying such tendencies, such children were simultaneously warned by the said adults that “hard ears you wouldn’t hear, own way you will feel”. It was an attempt to draw their attention to a fundamental and unchanging fact of life: namely, that the choices we make inevitably bring consequences down the road.
Last week, a local courtroom incident provided a strong reminder of the continuing relevance of this old Bajan adage. After a young man was remanded to HMP Dodds after an initial appearance before a local magistrate on gun and ammunition charges, his weeping mother was heard saying to him as he was being led out of the courtroom: “I talk to you. … Next time listen.”
As a new school year gets underway, amid growing concern about deviance and indiscipline within the student population, even though a small minority is involved, perhaps it is an opportune time to remind our youth, especially those entering secondary school for the first time, about the importance of making wise choices, including heeding well-meaning advice from parents and teachers, that will serve them in good stead for the future.
School was never meant to be a battle zone, which was the unfortunate portrayal in a number of videos of violent student clashes that made the rounds on social media during the last academic year. Rather, the purpose of school is to prepare students to make meaningful contributions to the future development of society through equipping them with the necessary skills and attitude to be productive and successful citizens.
As has always been the case in the generally successful story of Barbados’ development, especially during the post Independence period, a good education still holds the key to a bright future, never mind the distractions, including the lure of the drug trade, which suggest it no longer is. This applies in particular to children who were not born into great wealth which happens to be the reality of the average Barbadian child.
Even though a child today may be from a family which possesses all the modern trappings that suggest prosperity, a probe into the family history, often going back just four or so generations, would reveal a background of poverty. The upward social mobility of the child’s parents and grandparents would have been the result of having a good education. Therefore, a wise choice for the average child today continues to be giving of his or her best in pursuit of a good education.
In this regard, the message of a well-known calypso by the Mighty Sparrow remains as relevant today as it was back in the 1960s when it was recorded. “Children, go to school and learn well; otherwise later on in life, you go catch real hell; without an education in your head, your whole life will be pure misery, you better off dead… for there is simply no room in this world for an uneducated boy or girl.”
Ironically, it is the children who display little interest in education, who are often mostly associated with deviant behaviour. Indeed, it is said that many persons who end up in prison, had shown signs of being on this path from their school days. It is also known that most of the people who end up in prison were underachievers in school for whatever reason. Many, sad to say, are functionally illiterate.
It is worth asking, since this is a known fact, why did they fall through the cracks and why did the education system fail them. Was it solely the result of bad choices or was it a case where insufficient remedial action also contributed? At any rate, society has a duty to ensure that every young citizen is provided with the necessary means and support that helps to bring out the best of his or her potential whether academic, technical or otherwise.
Best wishes to our students and teachers for a productive year ahead that hopefully, will be generally free of some of the ugly incidents which caused great concern and consternation last year. As the Mighty Sparrow pleads with students: “Don’t allow idle companions to lead you astray; to earn tomorrow, you have to learn today.”