Government minister believes there is value in connecting to the past through old traditions, values, language

Dr Shantal Munro-Knight.

Older Barbadians are being urged not to turn their backs on the younger generation, but to help steer them in the right direction by teaching them traditional values and aspects of the Barbadian-rich cultural heritage.

This plea came from Senator Dr Shantal Munro-Knight, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with Responsibility for Culture, who called on Bardians not to take things or each other for granted, but to reflect on the past while “valuing what we have and celebrating where we are going”.

Munro-Knight was addressing the launch of the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage: School Edition, at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus on Thursday night.

Stating that the publication was a part of that process of “guarding the intangible cultural heritage of our people“, Munro-Knight said she saw it as “one pillar, one plank of taking ownership, of reclaiming our young people, of connecting them to us and their past. That is a challenge that is before all of us in whatever sphere of life we find ourselves”.

Making reference to a recent viral video of a 16-year-old boy who, along with another young man, allegedly participated in an attempted robbery of a ZR driver, the minister said “Most of us saw the video and we laughed. There were so many memes.

“But I hope as well there was also a moment of reflection because that young boy is ours. He is a product of our society. It is what we have produced in our society. Therefore we all have to take joint responsibility for those young people that we are producing,” said Munro-Knight.

She said the 16-year-old, who has since been remanded to prison, “should have caused us some level of reflection, some level of pause”.

“We are in a moment in Barbados where we are raising a generation some would suggest is lost or is about to become lost, a generation sometimes that we feel we don’t know, a generation that we feel sometimes some of us are disconnected from. I always find that sentiment fascinating because I always ask who has given birth to them?” she said.

“Even if we haven’t necessarily birthed them ourselves, they are a product of our society, they are a product of the village that we have created or not created. It is important for us not to give up that fight, not to walk away from that challenge, but instead be deliberate about ensuring that the generations who come behind us are connected. That we can identify them, that we can have ownership of them, because if we do not, someone else will,” she explained.

Dr Jeannette Allsopp, Chief Editor of the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage: School Edition, said it was an arduous task getting the book to the point of publication.

“You have to be very meticulous and very careful because you are setting a standard,” said Allsopp, as she acknowledged several individuals for their contribution.

The book was co-edited by Wendy Griffith-Watson, who has since passed away.

Dr Allsopp said while the book is geared towards children 11 to 18 years old, it could be used by other age groups.

She explained that it was split into themes including flora, fauna, food, festivals, folklore, music, religion, dance, and architecture and also includes institutional acronyms and abbreviations, as well as a small sample of Caribbean phrases and proverbs.

“It is a huge attempt to ensure that the children of Barbados and the Caribbean in general, know themselves, understand their language and where it came from and why it is the way that it is,” said Allsopp.

She said she was hoping to do workshops with teachers across the region to help them better understand how to use the book.

Munro-Knight expressed a desire to see more publications that preserve aspects of the island’s heritage and culture, as she pledged the continued support of the Ministry of Culture.

Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer (CEO) Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw welcomed the book, noting that with language being an important part of the nation’s rich cultural heritage, it would “serve as a teaching tool at this critical juncture” to equip teachers and students, with a greater understanding of the many facets of our Caribbean language.

“Our focus at the ministry is to create that ideal Caribbean person with the requisite knowledge and skills to function effectively as global citizens,” she said.

However, indicating that some students were “ashamed” of the true Caribbean culture that defines them, Archer-Bradshaw said the book was timely to help change that attitude.

Pointing to other places that have embraced their creole/patois including St Lucia and Jamaica, the CEO said she was pleased to note that Barbados’ “colourful language” could also be introduced to children in the form of the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage: School Edition.

“As a teaching tool, our children could be given opportunities to trace the history and etymology of words while connecting with their African heritage. Knowing our culture is knowing ourselves,” said Archer-Bradshaw. ]]>

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