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Initial public speaking topic scrapped for being ‘too political’

Initial public speaking topic scrapped for being ‘too political’

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The main topic initially proposed for this year’s Lime/Lions Club St Vincent South public speaking finals was axed because some teachers felt it was too political.{{more}}

Ronald Christopher, president of the Lions Club St Vincent South, disclosed this information as he delivered brief remarks at the event on Thursday at the Kingstown Methodist Church Hall.

Christopher said the club sent out a release stating the names of the finalists for the competition, as well as the topic “In times of economic crises, corruption and fraud become commonplace: The case of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

However, the topic was scrapped because, Christopher said: “There was a hue and cry from principals and teachers of most schools that they were not prepared or were afraid to discuss the topic.

“The Ministry of Education, with whom we have had excellent relationships … threw its weight behind the teachers and even commended them for their vigilance. They felt the topic was a political one.”

After much debate, the students’ main topic was changed to: “Capitalism has failed. The case for a different economic system.”

Christopher explained that Lions International mandates Lions clubs to discuss all matters of public interest, regardless of the forum, save and except partisan politics and sectarian religion.

“I can assure you that all topics we have discussed since 1996 have met this standard … For those who thought the topic was political and focuses on the public sector, you need to know that it doesn’t take an economic crisis for fraud or corruption to take place in the public sector…

“It is the order of the day and that is why there are so many commissions of enquiries whenever there is a change of government.”

Christopher further said that, as times get rough, people in every strata and sector try to make ends meet, oftentimes by devious means.

He said employers in St Vincent underestimate the extent of occupational fraud, ranging from theft of toiletries to misappropriation of one kind or the other.

“… In times of economic crises, fraudsters like the ‘three card men’ prey on people’s circumstances to rob them. Many persons fake illnesses as a means of getting money …

“I can go on, but it is not my intention to give you the speeches you were robbed of tonight. I simply want to expose the lack of forethought, lack of tolerance for diverse views and the shortage of logical thinking which seems to be pervading our education system,” Christopher stated.

But Carlton Hall, senior education officer for secondary schools in the Ministry of Education, speaking at the event, said it was the consensus of all parties concerned that the replacement topic has more academic value to the students.

Hall said there was a call by this country’s prime minister for teachers to teach either directly, or indirectly, critical thinking among students.

“To my mind, this topic lends itself to this mandate…” he said.

Hall said the protocol the Ministry expects in communicating information to schools was breached two years ago. He said every effort was made in the spirit of partnership to correct the breach of protocol.

“The Ministry of Education prefers to have information disseminated to the institutions through our Ministry,” Hall added.

He said the Ministry intends to remain a major partner in the event and have a cordial relationship with all concerned.

“We appreciate the partnership which we have shared with the Lions Club South and nothing is going to break that partnership. Nothing!”

Christopher described the situation as an “opportunity lost” and said he hopes the refusal to have such a timely topic discussed is not a tacit approval for the fraudulent activities taking place in our space.

“We hope that this development is an aberration and that we will return to a better place next year. Let me hasten to add that all topics are carefully crafted and discussed before selection is made. The Lions Club South is therefore prepared as always, to sit with the stakeholders to preserve this competition and take it to higher heights,” Christopher said. (KW)

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