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COLUMN – On giving back to the society . . .

Building-BridgesA major challenge for sustainable human development is to get people to see the potential within themselves and to take responsibility for their future.

The above quotation is taken from the Pinelands Creative Workshop website. Its Home  page goes on to point out “it is in this regard that the Pinelands Creative Workshop (PCW) in Barbados exemplifies
a group that has worked consistently within its own community and in others to promote ideas of self-reliance, positive self-esteem and community cohesion/togetherness, as well as a different mode of community governance”.

There is no doubt that the Pinelands Creative Workshop has done tremendous work over the years in uplifting the Pinelands community, and has been an example for similar communities throughout Barbados. It is against this backdrop, that when CEO of the Pinelands Creative Workshop, Rodney Grant, speaks, Barbadians should pay attention.

Rodney Grant

Rodney Grant

In his recent Press conference to commemorate the group’s 37th anniversary, Mr Grant made several points relating to the education system in Barbados. While pointing out the deficiencies in the current system, he made a case for new strategies which he suggested as possible solutions to the critical and urgent issues facing our society today.

Most important for me was his call for the educational system in Barbados to be reformed, so that Barbados could see a growth in graduates who understand and respect their civic duties and their impact on social development.

Furthermore, as reported in the media, Mr Grant admonishes: “No child should be exiting a school system unless they have some kind of hours in civic duties and civic engagements. To me that is very important, because we are just building and throwing out robots into society; people who have no sense of duty, no sense of nationalism, no sense of belonging to the country, no sense of standing for anything. They just want to get a degree and a certificate, and get a big job and live big.”

He also noted that these issues were critical, and that it fell on secondary to tertiary educational institutions to inculcate a level of responsibility and civic duty to the country. He stated: “No student coming out of university should get that degree unless they have made some kind of contribution while they are there. It should be mandated and part of the degree that they make some contribution; do something in terms of civic duty to ensure that you have that level of responsibility of giving back and caring.”

Mr Grant’s call is both timely and relevant to the society we live in today. His invaluable experience and lived reality makes his call even more serious and worthy of immediate consideration and implementation.

In my column of January 27, I reflected on the Right Excellent Errol Barrow’s Mirror Image Speech and asked: “Are we instilling in our young ones pride in our country?” Mr Grant’s suggestion of putting in place for our younger generation civic engagement through mandated civic duties and giving back to communities is one answer to my question. It can certainly build a sense of pride in country, as well as contribute to building a mindset and culture that says: “I must be a responsible citizen of this nation.”

It is noteworthy that this call to civic and community interaction is not only being sounded here, but has become part and parcel of the international business environment. I am told that no longer is it acceptable to have an impressive CV of subjects with high grades. Whereas in the past that was a sure guarantee to “big jobs” in established companies, it is now not the only and main consideration.

Young recruits are being asked to show involvement in social and community-based groups and organizations. They must be able to demonstrate the ability to work with others, interact, give back and contribute in a meaningful way to the society around them.

There are a myriad of issues confronting our society, and far too often we talk a lot about what is going wrong without offering solutions, or rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on fixing the damage. The call for getting our young people into different forms of community engagement is probably not new. I am sure that several studies and works have been concluded on this subject, but, unfortunately, probably gathering dust on some shelf.

Our society must consider seriously these studies and appeals if we hope to push forward our society into being more productive and less destructive.

The reality is that getting involved is not difficult. There are so many groups and organizations existing in Barbados allowing for community involvement that we really don’t need to re-invent the wheel. From faith-based groups to civic organizations, Cub Scouts, Girl Guides, Cadets, Optimist, Kiwanis and the list goes on. And if none of these are appealing, then start your own community group that brings something positive to the wider society.

As the Pinelands Creative Workshop makes it its struggle “to get people to see the potential within themselves and to take responsibility for their future”, so too should every one of us see it as our responsibility first to ourselves, then to those around and under our control, and then to our communities. If even less than 50 per cent of the island’s population does so, then hopefully there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace and secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association. Email:

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