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Keeping safe our heritage

Today's WomanThe end of the year is here, and I must confess to feeling it.

I am ready to buy curtains and pull down the house. I easily wrap Christmas and Independence into an end-of-year celebration.

I think we have embraced this as a nation, so that when the house painting and the sprucing starts in November, it is a process that covers both Independence and Christmas.

I have not been traditionally the Barbadian to complain about Independence being overshadowed by Christmas. I must admit, however, that this year I noticed several stores that chose to mount Black Friday Sale and Christmas decorations instead of reverencing our Independence.

Barbados needs to preserve its traditions; and while I am all for free enterprise, I believe that enterprise must be willing to operate within our space in such a way that our culture is not shocked into the back of a closet.

I participate in a conkie demonstration that takes the art of conkie making to a different school every year. Such is the kind of activity we must be willing to engage in to ensure our culture remains vibrant. We must ensure that when the house is “picked down”, our children assist.

We need to ensure that not just the commercial elements of our end-of-year activities are manipulated for their financial benefits, but that the entire festival is preserved as what we wish it to be.

On the point of preserving culture, I was walking with a visitor recently who inquired of the old Public Library building in Coleridge Street. I explained that it had been the Barbados Public Library, but that environmental issues had caused it to be relocated.  There are some unanswered questions around the Public Library move.

Is it ever going back to Coleridge Street? Is the building in Fairchild Street, which is now housing the library, big enough to accommodate all the material which was stored in Coleridge Street and have it properly placed and available to the public?

Were there any files or papers lost due to the environmental issues at the old Public Library location?

It continues to amaze me that after having been given a World Heritage designation, we are still so nonchalant about ensuring our heritage is protected.

Master’s and PhD students pay handsomely to access archives that are helpful to their work. As our economy limps along, it is these true niche areas which we must look to diversify and build on for our opportunities.

Where does it start? This will take an education that encourages independent thinking.  How do we get that within our current system? Forgive me for injecting first person accounts, but it is these experiences which truly get me thinking.

I had to send two messages to my son recently at school. Information is instant, business is instant, and therefore a mummy’s pickup plans can change at the drop of a hat.

The first day, I had no problem getting my message through. The second day, what I wanted my ward to undertake was a little more complex and I needed to physically speak to him.

The person on the phone explained that he could not be reached because he was in a class. I understood that. At the same time, what a cumbersome process it then becomes to touch base with the child! I had to end up putting a meeting on hold until I got his callback.

Had he a cellular phone placed on silent or message only function, I could have had his message to him in no time, and he could have accessed it after his class, responded, made clarifications, and so on. How do we continue to hinder our children in technology and then expect them to step out of secondary school as an entrepreneurial class?

We feed our children everything until they reach 16 –– the colour of their socks, the length of their hair, the shoes they wear. It is no wonder we lose many of them in the transition years between
16 and 20.

These children leave the structure of school, and those who do not have strong community or family support are completely overwhelmed by the circumstance of coming from an environment where everything is regulated to one where they are now expected to make all of their decisions autonomously.

I am not against children wearing a uniform, but I believe they need to have room to express their ingenuity and personal style. Puerto Rico has a system that seems to work well. Pants, shirts, skirts and shoes are regulated, but students are free to style their hair and wear whatever socks and basic accessories they wish.

There is beauty in difference. The difference in the choices students make does not necessarily negatively affect the overall uniformity of the student body.

Are these the things policymakers are exposed to when they use taxpayers’ dollars to travel overseas? Aren’t these the things we need to consider if we are really trying to build an entrepreneurial class?

A child who has been rigorously regimented from three to 16 does not become a risk-taker at 20 and open
a business offering archival data tours
to overseas students.

While we are that rigid at controlling our children though, we cannot work out an adequate school maintenance programme to ensure they do not lose large chunks of teaching time during the term. So far his term, we have had interruptions at Eden Lodge Nursery School, Combermere, Blackman And Gollop, and Lawrence T. Gay Primary.

Individuals who have never taught may not fully appreciate how difficult it is to settle a school for teaching and learning. Anyone who has spent any time in teaching, however, knows that when a school is disrupted for two days the rest of the week is lost. When a week
of interruption occurs, two weeks are actually affected.

I continue to examine my island and I am not sure why we do not engage in some of the analysis that is necessary to ensure we can move our country forward. Not tomorrow, not in ten years.

Ten years have come and we need forward movement right now. Can you see it, or am I just way off this week?

(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies. Email

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