Three weeks ago, I outlined a few issues that need to be addressed in 2020. Today, I revisit this subject with the hope that government and other stakeholders in the development of Barbados will take note and act.
On the issue of increasing violence among young people, I urge the Mottley administration to support the efforts of the Anglican Church Commission on Advocacy, Justice and Social Responsibility, as well as the continuing work of Messrs Corey Layne and Roger Husbands who are trying hard to tackle the problem at source.
The strategies used by Corey and Roger are better known, but the Anglican Church, through the Commission aforementioned, has embarked on a long-term project entitled Empowering our Young People for Positive Living, with the aim of identifying at-risk children and intervening in a meaningful way. Churches in the project have begun working with families of such children to help prevent the youngsters from falling prey to negative forces. Government, the private sector and the media can do much to support the effort of the Commission and the two community practitioners. All of us have a stake in the promotion of a Barbados characterised by justice, peace and harmony.
The Barbados Labour Party administration came to office with the promise of accountability, transparency and good governance. However, there are some disturbing signs of the absence of or, at best, the very limited application of these features.
Our lone television station continues to be the mouthpiece of the party in power with very little allowance for alternative views. Many Barbadians now blank the “news” at seven which is, more often than not, little more than a parade of ministers announcing plans, many of which are, obviously, not well thought out, or lamenting conditions created by the last administration during the “lost decade”. “Interviews” allow the interviewees to indulge in self-congratulatory vacuous responses, after which viewers are none the wiser. After 53 years, we should be mature enough to permit CBC staff to do their work of informing, educating and entertaining without undue political interference. Ministers must know that they are running the risk of over exposure and creating audience fatigue.
Still on the issue of accountability, transparency and good governance, why is it that very little is disclosed about the seemingly large number of consultants and advisors? White Oak and Jong still remain mysterious shadows. Are the roles and fees paid to these “experts” state secrets? Tax payers have a right to know who is working, supposedly, on their behalf.
Additionally, the promise of constant communication with the public, so big a concern pre 2018, is kept more in the breach than the observance. Merely talking in Parliament to members of one’s team or making public pronouncements, with no opportunity provided for questions from the fourth estate, do not measure up to the standards of communication. When last have we had a real press conference? I am baffled at the deafening silence of the body representing media personnel on this matter. Of course, investigative journalism has never been the forte of our local media!
Given the Prime Minister’s stated commitment to education reform, one hopes that as many views as possible are solicited, so that we produce a blueprint for a system which will maximise the potential of all our children.
We cannot afford to get this wrong. I stand ready to offer my recommendations, arrived at after a thorough evaluation of what and how we presently provide for the education of Barbadian young people. On the other hand, if we are just going through an academic exercise with no real intention of improving the system, we should spare the populace the frustration of attending and speaking at the now ubiquitous town hall meetings.
As I see it, there is much work to be done this year if our island paradise is to begin satisfying the legitimate concerns of Barbadians.
John Goddard, retired, but always an educator.