While in Guyana in the mid-1990s, I asked the mother of a 9-year-old schoolboy why she found it necessary to send her child to costly after-school private lessons. She told me that she wanted him to have the sort of education she felt he was entitled to, and had no option but to pay for the privilege.
She went on to say that some of the teachers at the school her son attended did not stick to the full curriculum but “skimped” on lessons, in order to get the children to attend their after-school fee-paying sessions, to catch up.
All parents want the best for their children or, as the writer of a previous letter so plaintively put it: “All we want is better learning for our children, as many of us cannot read and write, easily. We want our children to be better.” These parents are aware that education is the key to a better quality of life. An education is something nobody can steal from you; it is completely portable and remains yours for life.
In Georgetown, I shopped weekly at a popular supermarket. A lad, who appeared to be in his early teens, regularly manned the bag-bay and, in between attending customers, always sat gazing into the mid-distance. One day I handed him an overseas newspaper, which I felt would be of interest to him. After shopping, when I went to collect my bag, the folded newspaper was still where I had left it. His colleague walked along with me and whispered “He can’t read.” I was taken by surprise − it never occurred to me that he couldn’t.
One expects every succeeding generation to be better educated than the previous one, and it is so sad to find that this is not always the case.
Time was when Guyana had a level of education second to none in the Caribbean, and visitors from the industrialised countries were always amazed that the chap weeding the grass, driving the dust or donkey cart, sweeping the streets could “read and write.” We may never see those days again. Pity.