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It is that time of year


As the month of September dashed in on us, two things would have occupied our minds, as they do at this time every year. I refer to the reopening of schools and facing the reality of another hurricane season. Although the hurricane season starts in June, we tend to single out the month of September as the most feared month.{{more}} The recent destruction in Dominica reminds us that at this time we are exposed not only to hurricanes, but to tropical waves and storms, which are just as dangerous. The estimated $700 million worth of damage to Dominica also reminds us of the vulnerability of our small countries and the extent to which any development thrust can be rolled back in a matter of hours. It should, hopefully, force us to pay more attention to the issue of climate change, which is stark reality, despite the efforts of influential persons, especially in the United States, to deny its existence. Every year at this time we have to question the extent to which we are ready to deal with natural disasters. This is the responsibility of all of us, not only governments. Many of us still fail to see the connection between the tossing of debris in the drains and rivers and flooding, as the debris blocks the normal flow of water. The cutting off of communication between Petite Savanne and the rest of Dominica must remind us of the importance of strengthening disaster recovery mechanisms throughout the country, so that areas that might be cut off could at least in the short run deal with any emergencies. We have, in any event, to be constantly vigilant.

The reopening of schools sees the same issues resurfacing every year: the difficulty of parents in meeting the costs of books, uniforms and putting in place adequate travel arrangements for students who have to travel to school. Fortunately, every year we seem to have more and more persons and organizations providing books, bursaries and scholarships to cater to those who are dependent on this kind of assistance. Any talk about the reality on the ground is usually met with accusations of playing politics. It appears to me that many of us do not fully appreciate how the other half or three-quarters (depending on where you position yourselves) live. If we knew, we might be shocked by the circumstances under which many students study and live. Vincentians are by and large quite aware of the importance of education in surviving in this harsh environment. They, therefore, see the education of their children not only as a responsibility, but also as an investment. The State is failing in not providing the means by which graduating students could begin to make their contribution to family and country and building their self-esteem. We are all aware of the depressed economic climate, but at the same time our education system continues to prepare graduates simply for employment rather than facilitating entrepreneurial ventures. In any event the climate is not very conducive for investing, as we can see from many of the small businesses that have had short reigns.

A friend of mine suggested that our education systems are creating nurseries for educated criminals, since some of our young people with nothing to do following their graduation from school are likely to end up on a criminal pathway. We continue to be surprised at the young age of persons who are breaking the law and are perpetrators of many social ills. We are in fact creating a class of people who survive by this means. Robberies are so rampant today that we are beginning to take them for granted. As I write now, I am hearing about a break-in at the Ministry of Health. Last week at the StVincent and the Grenadines Community College there was the theft of a vault with money. And, of course, there were scores of others committed over the past months. What is frightening about some of these is that they take place in broad daylight.

For this year, we have with us a prolonged silly season. I am, of course, referring to the waiting time before the political bell rings. The silly season actually refers to a period of exaggerated news and outlandish publicity stunts. There is so much of this nonsense going on around us that the name is clearly appropriate. I saw recently reference to a statement by one of our candidates, who apparently spoke about people at Ratho Mill, Queen’s Drive and Cane Garden sipping their coffee, while they look at Bequia and fret about government spending too much money to help poor people. To add to this, he suggested that the poverty level has been reduced from 20 odd to 2.9 per cent. I have not heard more nonsense in a long time. Oh, how we long to be spared such foolish and idle talk. One person writing to I Witness News suggested televised debates for SVG as we approach the elections. What is the purpose of these debates? We hear from the candidates and parties every day and night. We see them sometimes more often than we want to. Who in this country can say that they don’t know for what the parties stand? What we see quite often are a group of people saying what the people want to hear. This is a disgusting period, when quite often efforts are made to capitalize on peoples’ material wants and supposed ignorance, without any effort to engage their intellect. More absurdities are to be expected when we are officially summoned to the polling booths. The country, in the meantime, remains trapped amidst idle and malicious talk that flouts our very intelligence and sometimes, sense of decency. Would you believe this is 2015?

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.