Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley speaking at a recent lunchtime lecture at St. Mary’s Anglican Church. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

By 2030, every child under the age of 18 in Barbados must be fully prepared to live lives which will help to unleash this country’s greatest potential. They must be bilingual, able to swim, exposed to an artistic and a sporting discipline, and be able to understand the elements of business and how to take risks.

This vision, shared by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley at a recent lunchtime lecture at St. Mary’s Anglican Church, is focused on giving hope and purpose to the 60 per cent who flounder in an educational system designed to focus on the top 40 per cent.

Speaking on the topic Barbados Beyond 2019, the Prime Minister declared: “Our educational system cannot be about training lawyers and doctors, priests and teachers, but it has to be about unleashing a purposeful, compassionate, passionate, disciplined and creative citizen.”

She said that the development strategy of those in colonial times was reflected in an educational system and law “designed to focus on the top 40 per cent and to carry along the rest to be orderly, to be capable of taking instructions and not to get outside of themselves and besides themselves”.

The process of deconstructing that system, she added, has taken far longer than hoped because “ingrained in us is a system of education, not only in our schools, but also in the church, the community and institutions of the country, that is still ordered, regrettably, in a time past, for a people past and for a purpose that is not our own”.

She explained the importance of each focus selected for the new development strategy.

“They must be capable of speaking a second language because we live in a world today that requires us to engage and not look inward, so that we must produce global citizens with Barbadian roots.

“Our educational system cannot be about training lawyers and doctors, priests and teachers, but it has to be about unleashing a purposeful, compassionate, passionate, disciplined and creative citizen.”

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley

“We say that we must teach them to swim because you cannot live on an island and not know how to cross the seas or be in the seas, literally and metaphorically.”

Sports, she explained, teaches young people that in life you can lose and still be an honourable person, and on the other hand, you can win and still be compassionate and charitable.

The artistic disciplines, she added, whether singing, playing music, painting, carving or writing, connected people to a sense of compassion and creativity that changed their lives.

“And being shepherded in how to take risks and how to be an entrepreneur is critical so that you understand that if you have a good idea and you do it and lose, that that does not mean that you become down-pressed and that you do not try again and again in the language of Jimmy Cliff, because you can succeed if you really want to ultimately.”

Members of the audience at the lunchtime lecture on ‘Barbados Beyond 2019’ at St. Mary’s Anglican Church. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Prime Minister Mottley said that she was convinced that if Barbados was able to create more and more of these kind of citizens, the chances of these young people feeling alienated in their own country would be significantly reduced.

“What are the chances of them risking life and limb to do ignorance, either on the road or to themselves, and engaging in anti-social behaviour?

“Alternatively, what are the chances of them being confident enough to take on the world, not frightened to look at landscape that is different from ours and being resilient enough to know that they will live in a world where uncertainty is going to be the only certainty for them?”

The former Education Minister said that one area which has not been sufficiently dealt with, and which will have to be added to the mix is the need to build the confidence of young people in the face of power.

“The same children that will be outside being boisterous will come in here (the church or any unfamiliar environment) and you ask them their name and you have to lean down to hear it.

“We can’t suppress the spirit of our people if we want them to be purposeful and passionate.”

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley

“The same young people will go into a workplace and you can’t get them, even though they know the answer to a problem, to open their mouths and say respectfully ‘this is what I see or this is how I feel’ even if it is to disagree.

“And I have said to people, I argue strongly, but I expect you to argue back as strongly as I argue because it is only through that expression of confidence and that respect of each other that we are going to be able to allow the best ideas to contend and be able to perfect this journey that we are making called nation-building.”

She criticized those who would suggest to children that they should be seen and not heard, describing it as part and parcel of an educational and religious system which believed more in order than in the expression of creativity and the bolstering of confidence.

“And, we have therefore to understand that this is a mission-critical activity that has to be nation-wide….  We can’t suppress the spirit of our people if we want them to be purposeful and passionate.”

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley listens to a question from an audience member following her presentation at the St. Mary’s Anglican Church. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Prime Minister Mottley identified the reintroduction of free tertiary education and the newly-created Barbados YouthAdvance Corps as two important decisions in respect of the future of young people.

When fully functioning, the Corps will have 2000 people enrolled at any one time, and will cost in excess of $22 million.

Ms. Mottley stated: “That is a major commitment but that cost is far less than the cost of lives and people being shot, the cost of full prisons, the cost of families that are separated and divided, breeding another set of young people to come up anchorless and valueless, so that the $22 million, all of a sudden, looks like a small number.”

She also revealed that she had discussed with the President of Suriname, Desi Bouterse, the possibility of youth exchanges, describing the opportunity for young people to live abroad for up to six months as “the greatest gift”, allowing them to understand that they were global citizens with the ability to manage every environment, and deal with all kinds of people.

The Prime Minister concluded: “We must prepare ourselves to be resilient, to be purposeful, to have a passion, to have compassion, to be creative and to be committed to a collective called the nation state, the community and the family to make it a better place.  To allow people to dream, to allow people to embrace opportunity and to allow us to be the best that we can be.

“That is what Grantley Adams and Errol Barrow fundamentally sought to create for us, but in this Barbados 2.0 the challenges come in different forms, in different images, but the antidote remains the same – the power and passion of the people.

“Own it and we shall succeed.  Ignore it at our peril and we shall fall.”

joy.springer@barbados.gov.bb

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