Linden has long fallen on difficult times. The decline of the bauxite industry has sent the economy of what is still euphemistically referred to as the mining town into a tailspin. Job losses, first with the decline of bauxite and more recently with the closure of the operations of Omai Gold Mines Ltd, have devastated families, reduced domestic demand for goods and services and decimated much of the town’s predominantly small business commercial sector; the search for optional employment has witnessed significant outward migration from Linden to other parts of Guyana, to the Caribbean and further afield. The community’s economic woes have spawned social problems. Crime has been on the rise in Linden and some of the more serious reports of violence and other forms of deviant behaviour in schools have been recorded there. Linden, unquestionably, is going through ‘the wars.’
Those brave souls who have remained in Linden, either by choice or by circumstances, have managed as best they could. Some have turned the technical skills which they acquired as employees of Guymine and Linmine to various forms of self-employment. Others eke out a living as farmers against odds like dire scarcity of resources and official sloth in the processing of titles for farmlands. More recently, projects like the Women of Worth have served to demonstrate that Lindeners can accomplish, given some measure of support whether it be from the state or the private sector; and Linden still boasts a handful of hardy businessmen who persist in their various entrepreneurial pursuits against odds that would long have driven business ventures elsewhere in Guyana to the wall. In sum, the people of Linden have had to unlearn their traditional dependence on a bauxite-driven economy around which the entire community evolved and to which the community looked for subsidized services like electricity and to seek alternatives rooted in self-reliance and ingenuity. Such circumstances would challenge any community anywhere in the world.
For all this, when you talk with hard-core Lindeners you sense in them an abiding faith in their community. You sense too, a pride and a passion, sometimes even a sense of arrogance, nurtured perhaps in the heady days of bauxite’s heyday and preserved virtually intact through the hellish years of economic downturn. Linden survives, one suspects, principally because of an inherent belief of the community in itself.
Sometimes communities rise above their challenges, delivering astonishing returns seemingly against unbelievable odds, as did Linden recently, demonstrating in the process that self-belief really can work miracles. Perhaps not surprisingly, it took a clutch of youngsters with no first-hand knowledge of Linden’s ‘better days’ to deliver the miracle that must surely have lifted the town’s spirits.
Up until last week when the nation was told the news that a 12-year-old youngster from Linden had bested the 17,392 other children at what is unquestionably the most competitive examination on the national schools’ curriculum, many Guyanese outside of Linden had probably never even heard of Regma Primary School. They know of Regma now! It took young Terron Alleyne and his colleagues like Carol Hopkinson, Teryka Mohabir and the sixty-eight other youngsters from Linden who have been awarded places at the nation’s top secondary schools, based on their performances at the National Grade Six Assessment, not only to place Regma Primary on the national academic honours roll but also to remind us that Linden, for all of its difficulties, refuses to be the basket case that some of us think it to be; that Linden, even with the decline of bauxite and the attendant challenges, can shine and sometimes, like this time, brilliantly so.
And when, like now, the efforts of youngsters like Terron and his colleagues and their parents and their dedicated teachers come through for Linden, they in fact come through for this entire nation, making an eminent case for the capacity of Guyanese to thrive and sometimes to prosper under the most difficult of circumstances.
As much as we applaud the accomplishments of Terron and his colleagues we salute, simultaneously, the people, the community and the influences that have shaped the lives and fashioned the dedication and the discipline that repose in the characters of the children who have done Linden so proud. We are heartened by the fact that those uplifting influences are still alive in a community that some of us are inclined to write off as having seen its best days.
It took that handful of youngsters too, to, hopefully, cause all of Linden to renew its sense of self-belief and to rekindle its conviction that Linden can and will rise again.