Along Croal Street Frankly Speaking...
Stabroek News
November 2, 2001

The recently-publicised school-girl street brawl and the Education Ministry's tentative steps at investigating or arresting student truancy prompt me to offer a few long-withheld comments.

For years I have observed with displeasure and foreboding the negative "mini-bus sub-culture" and the related behaviour of the city's young people along Croal Street in the capital, Georgetown. Especially, of course, between 3 pm and 7 pm in the evenings. From schools, public and private, and from extra lessons, the students congregate under the guise of awaiting transportation. But they are really socialising on a public street. Nothing wrong with that in itself but it's when you hear the conversations and observe the body language you shudder at what the future - and Guyana's - portend.

Mind you, as I hurtle towards sixty, with the wisdom of hindsight and all that my working-class Catholic Primary School/Government education benefited me, I'm open-minded enough not to direct all the blame and causes, related to the shockingly low morals and standards of behaviour, to the youths themselves! Not at all! Where are the parents, guardians and teachers? I'll return to this question but, up front, I direct your attention to one of the primary problems - as I see it. Today's "parents and teachers" are themselves like the errant students. They are, in the main, under-35, rudderless, untutored in parenting, cosmetic in their understanding of religious or moral values and themselves victims of the harsh political and economic times. Their children and students merely mirror their attitudes to living the modern life.

Appreciate too, the maxim: "Every generation gets the youth it deserves" which, being interpreted, means that the environments created and the behavioural examples set by society's adults determine the character and behaviour of the teenagers and adolescents. This simple truth is not often appreciated when we berate the younger ones for their inappropriate or objectionable exhibitions. It might help to remember, as one song reminds us, that the youth do not own the record companies that churn out what passes for music. The youth do not own the rum and beer shops. They don't make the clothes or weapons. Nor do they dominate the politics. Get the drift? So what is to be done?

Take Croal Street, South Road, North Road or any of the Bus Terminals where the young congregate in the afternoons. I'm not being ridiculous when I suggest that a few trained male and female policemen, members of Parent-Teachers Associations and officials from the Human Services Ministry should join the Schools Welfare Services Division in a long sustained campaign to monitor and alter the behaviour of youths on the road.

Along Croal Street - long the street which housed lawyers' chambers, the crucibles of what could be termed our "legal system", now emerging as another primary location for commercial concerns - watch the students linger too long for special buses, observe the out-of-school youth mingling to cause trouble. Search the bags and "waists" and find weapons or extra clothing, even noxious substances. Listen to some vile conversations, admiration for get-rich-quick crooks and sometimes, the longing to become like bandits or to migrate. Then you wonder why there is no or little patriotism. You fear for our literacy levels. Then you search for reasons.

Well, it is true that or educational levels and standards of parenting and morals have all plummetted. Political behaviour and certain leaders' exhortations recently have fuelled all-round disrespect for any authority. Realise that for every student who wins an award for excellence, or just graduates, there are about fifty who can't read. I know. After thirty years - 3 decades - I'm temporarily associated with an effort to teach or re-educate older teenagers just to read, understand and calculate, at the basic levels. It's frightening! How can the illiterate think for themselves? Reason and analyse? Remedial and adult education classes for literacy's and Guyana's sake must be mounted throughout this land.

Or else. Despite the clean uniforms, expensive boots and loaded book-bags, we'll be producing a society of sub-literates, ignorant morons given to crime, violence and self-destruction. Let's clean up all the "Croal Streets" of Guyana. It can't be too late!

The "pot" boils

1) Pardon me for this beginning here, but next Friday I'll explore a remark I barely caught on Channel 9's Black Forum; "Those who regard themselves as Black".

2) So our own Lincoln Lewis now heads the Caribbean Congress of Labour. Good for Guyana! Good for the Caribbean? He'll promote Caribbean unity. What about in the local TUC?

3) Of course, terrorism cannot be defined only by September 11 in New York. But does Mr bin Laden care that 15,000 children have lost one or more parents as a result of the September attack? So who says that innocents should not die in Afghanistan? Regrettable but unavoidable.

4) In a chilling, prophetic documentary titled Jihad in America, made after the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, September 11 was predicted. No politician took notice eight years ago! Under the guise of religious freedom in America, Arab extremists used Kansas to say all they wished.

5) Any wonder that the US and others will now close their open societies?

6) On Sharma, seriously: A letter-wrier in this Sunday's Stabroek rebukes C.N. Sharma thus - "the same Sharma exercises his democratic right (?) guarded by lawyers, to besmirch and ruin the reputations of decent citizens. Noble and honourable reputations which have been cultivated over decades, can be destroyed within minutes on a Sharma `Show'." (Note well, Doc.!)

7) On Sharma, lightly: If Sharma is allowed to purchase the national airline and broadcasting station, all hell will break loose. He'll take aim with the 707, straight for Freedom House and the Police Commissioner's office.

Then announce their destruction on Radio Justice For All!

8) Squattersville - At Better Hope would-be squatters attack sugar-workers. This government and the City Council can be so soft. Squatting has to be nipped in the bud. From day one. Watch another eye-sore of a SquattersVille develop parallel to Aubrey Barker road in South Ruimveldt. Will anything be done before its too late?

9) What's that? PM Clem says GINA means "Guyana Indian News Agency"? Naughty!

10) I grieve as I became - and my legion of fans - victims of GBC's turmoil. My beautiful cameos, "It's In Guyana" and "Words of Wisdom" are no more. Tears are in order. (Welcome Byron!)

Til next week!