By FAYAD ALI
AS a child my mother used various methods to teach me.
There were limited resources available, but she made do with what we had. My reading book, novels, old newspapers and a dictionary helped the mastery of the language.
They all aided me to build the foundations of reading, writing, comprehension and prowess in oratory and elocution. She insisted that all writings must emerge with choice words, for precision, and with just that ‘touch of mink’ a linguistic sparkle was created.
There were no computers, electronic calculators, no overhead projectors, G-Boards or internet access. I had to write and not type. I learnt the four basic operations of arithmetic and I mastered them, from an early age.
These were and still remain the foundation for all of mathematics.
The ignorance here, if harboured, is eventually fatal. My mother made sure that my work was learnt and that my homework was properly done. And so today, I endorse the role of parents, especially in the child’s early education.
The television, video games and cellphones, Facetime and the internet are replacements for mom and dad’s time with the child.
Summer camp on our tropical island is the answer to ‘what am I to do with you all of the Augustine sunlight?’
Poor results are blamed squarely on the teacher and not on over partying, not studying, hanging out at the malls and the hours in front of a screen.
Today, the child has more rights than the parents.
The wisdom of the ancient ones meant no sitting and waiting for handouts or casting blame on all asunder as an excuse for laziness, idleness, folly and want.
Back then, there existed a great understanding and a desire to ensure that their offspring enjoyed more than they did. It was a wisdom that was passed on by their forefathers.
The policy was a simple one with little basis from research by some ‘leading educator.’ It dictated that a person moves to level two, only when competent at level one; then to three when two has been mastered.
One does not enter secondary school because spaces at the school are to be filled or that the government proposes this for political mileage, under the umbrella of free education for all.
Try moving to the tenth floor, directly from the eighth. Promote the illiterate 15-year-old and expose him to Euclidean geometry, a second language and lower the standards so that he can now wear a mortar board and claim to be ready for employment. And what does the education policy of the country dictate?
Perhaps, I was incorrectly taught that if you discover that you are riding a dead horse, then it is wise to dismount and try to locate another horse or means of transport. I was wrong…those who taught me were wrong…the dead horse was wrong to die…
Today’s policies differ and government policies dictate that certain steps must first be adhered to; maybe get a lighter rider.
There are much TV interviews, politicians posing with them for pictures and the media coerced into offering full support. The dead horse is now a star.
Most of the population is bowled over (hints of George Orwell’s Animal Farm?) and are overwhelmed. Some diehards will also claim that they were born into a party that rode dead horses, their parents and grandparents belonged to the party that also rode dead horses and their children will also belong to the said party.
They will make a calypso on dead horses and play it again and again on the airwaves and ask us to wave our hand for a dead horse.
And we would because the melody sweet and the ambience is inviting.
(Fayad Ali is a former Dean at Naparima College in San Fernando, Trinidad, an eminent Mathematics teacher and author)