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Professor Rex Nettleford delivers Independence lecture

Professor Rex Nettleford  delivers Independence lecture

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As St.Vincent and the Grenadines marks its 29th anniversary of Independence, Professor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies Rex Nettleford, one of the region’s esteemed intellectuals, is challenging Vincentians to exercise both intellect and imagination, to produce a self reliant, self respecting, resilient, tolerant, peaceful and far less violent prone enterprising and productive society.{{more}}

Nettleford, the feature speaker at the VINSURE, UWI Open Campus SVG 10th Annual Independence Lecture, held on Tuesday October 21st at the Methodist Church Hall, said the task before us is “a self evident, awesome, frightening, challenging one but irritatingly satisfied”.

The importance of incorporating culture in our education system was one of his key points in the presentation.

Focusing his presention on the theme “Education and Caribbean Society”, Nettleford stated that an educational system which does not inculcate and foster culture is not likely to be of much use to St.Vincent and the Grenadines or the region.

“The neglect of culture as integral to education persists among many in the public bureaucracy and the teaching profession of the region,” said Nettleford, adding that this is so despite the fact that there is clear evidence that many of the people who have had anything of value to say about this region are those who have exercised their creative imagination to make sense of both the Caribbean and of human historical experience and existential reality. He noted that among the persons who have excelled in culture and education are musicians, poets, calypsonians, dub artistes and novelists.

Nettleford outlined that in order for education to make a worthwhile contribution to development it must train persons to multitask.

He said any government policy which ties education and training narrowly to one specific job is likely to be short-sighted and counterproductive in the medium and long term.

Nettleford added that the preparation of the young to be able to think his or her way through change and changing circumstances within a given skill area and beyond can be the only meaningful aim of educational preparation. This has to be a corner stone in the future we envisage for Caribbean societies, he exclaimed.

“It is also disingenuous to dismiss the analysis of our society which asks that we broaden the base of ownership to develop a social structure which reflects the reality of the majority,” said Nettleford. He explained that government’s role in securing this objective must be a positive and activist one. “The market and the free for all economic liberalism cannot be the answer,” he further stated.

He warned the audience to never forget the values that foster the smooth functioning of the society such as dignity and responsibility of individuals, the freely chosen participation of individuals in communities, equality of opportunity and the search for a common good and for cultural servitude all of which can be realised through the field of education.

“It is here that a sense of daring is badly needed in any plan and strategy for the way forward,” Nettleford advised.

On the issue of independence he said: “Independence with a lower case ‘i’ is integral to independence with a capital ‘I’. We ignore this point of power at our peril,” he sighed.

Nettleford stated that the universities of the region including the University of the West Indies are similarly challenged if not endangered and are likely to be of little use to the region in the next 60 years if they ignore the implications of such short sightedness.”

“To cite an example, vocational schools teaching auto mechanics must take the learner beyond moving nuts and bolts to his or her knowing why he or she removes, adjust, replaces this or that nut or bolt. In other words, the know-why is important otherwise the region will merely continue to produce hewers of wood and drawers of water which these Caribbean territories were required exclusively to produce in another dispensation and against which the region struggled to liberate itself for all this time ever since emancipation,” said Nettleford.

Dr.Adrian Fraser, Head of the UWI Open Campus, SVG, said this year’s lecture is special not only because it’s the 10th lecture in the series but also it is being held in year when the university is celebrating the 60th anniversary. He said it is for this reason that a special invitation was given to Professor Nettleford who has been central to the work and image of the university in recent times.