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Let it soar

From left: BCC music head of department, Roger Gittens, artist Winston Kellman and calypsonian Red Plastic Bag at this morning’s panel discussion.

We need to pay more than lip service to the arts in schools, especially those areas that are not about sitting down and teaching.

That’s the strong view of head of the music department at the Barbados Community College, Roger Gittens, who told students and educators at the Third Barbados International Conference on Higher Education 2012 this morning that he believed there was need for a separate space for children to explore their creativity.

Gittens, who was part of a panel that included calypsonian Red Plastic Bag, BCC tutor Yvonne Weekes and artist Winston Kellman, was responding to a question from the audience on whether there should be a separate space or school(s) for children to explore the arts.

Speaking to the topic, The Creative Process, he had moments before told the story of three students, all of whom had proven to be musically gifted who did not have the qualifications necessary to get into the music programme at the BCC.

Using himself and RPB as examples, he asked the students whether the school system in its current state would allow a man like RPB to explore his talents as a writer, and a musician and performer like himself the ability to go after his love of music.

The BCC music department auditions students each year for the programme and he told of a boy who could not read music but could play perhaps even better than he could and who because of his inability to read the music and his lack of the prerequisite CXCs could not get into the programme or even the college to further his interests.

“Interestingly enough, we have to ask: Do our entry requirements cater to these intelligences?”

Gittens charged that the education system was built largely on fear, where children believed they had to conform to a certain mould or get something right in a certain way, otherwise it was wrong and they would be punished. Instead, he charged that creative students needed the environment where they could feed off of each other to push creativity and innovation to the next level in the arts.


“I believe that we do need (creative) institutions like that, not just one, but we also need to change the way we teach. Our approach to education is very academic oriented and from primary school we need to emphasise exploration in the arts, so that persons can actualise in all areas…

“We tend to play lip service to the areas that are not sit down and teach. Yes, there needs to be for secondary school and maybe post secondary school, but from primary school we have programmes throughout the island in every school that cater to that part of all of us,” said the BCC music head.

Gittens said he found that the arts were put in a compartment, where in reality it was in everything.

“We need to emphasise it. Everyone should play an instrument, should dance, should act, should be exposed to those things from primary school. We did it possibly before on moonlight nights, but we have too many young people now whose experience is just Youtube, BET…,” he said, adding that the generations as well needed to learn how to work with each other in creating the arts. (LB)

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