"Their minds are not here..." Frankly Speaking...
Stabroek News
February 1, 2002

Both as an old school teacher myself and a committed and concerned citizen of our republic, I'm constrained to comment on one aspect of our seemingly consistent brain drain.

I refer, of course, to the recruitment of our teachers especially by the Americans, and the more than enthusiastic response to abandon the homeland. Now, my regular readers will know that I'll hardly herein delve into the reasons why our professionals - especially the government employed, "public servant" types - are clamouring to leave. I feel the causes - self-improvement, peace-of-mind, job-security with adequate rewards, etc - are well-known.

But I choose to take issue with some of the remarks made by a former PNC Minister of Education, a man I normally have a healthy respect for, Mr Deryck Bernard. It is reported that Mr Bernard, quietly but fiercely Afro-centric and a loyal "Hoyte-like" academic, monitored and mingled among the hundreds of teachers and even, non-teachers who turned up at the hotel hoping to be recruited into the New York City Board of Education system.

Mr Bernard, I repeat, is one of the PNC older "turks" I truly admire most of the time. He was a competent, handpicked-by-Hoyte administrator - actually one of Hoyte's better finds amongst the younger blood. A good Minister of Education who, however, as seems to be "normal", is wiser after the fact. Mr Bernard though, is to me a person of integrity, when compared to others; a gifted musician and singer; a Christian believer and geographer who seems to be good leadership material, even for a rough-and-tumble outfit such as the PNC has become.

I recall my wondering about, then disagreeing with Bernard's analysis of census figures and our demography a few years ago. He was intent on showing how population shifts and immigration figures meant a PNC victory at the 1997 polls if race played a significant part in people's choice. I sighed wearily but my regard for Mr Bernard remained.

Now up he comes with a few statements that dent my confidence in him once more. Looking at the teachers eager to flee to New York, the former Education Minister and PNC Top Exec is quoted as saying: "...this is embarrassing; this is disastrous, a tragedy ... during the PNC administration there were problems but we never had anything as disgusting and obscene as this..."

Come, come now Uncle Deryck. Did you ever check the US Embassy "Visa Lines" in Main Street or Kingston in "your" days? Those lines did not begin in 1993. Surely, you know that the mass exodus began long before October '92. And surely, we could not have witnessed the Le Meridien stampede of mid-January because Linden Forbes or Desmond would not have allowed those recruiters here in the first place. Especially if they were from New York as these were. Why, almost justifiably, I recall Forbes stopping me and some other fellows from proceeding to Zambia - after we had completed arrangements to go for just a period.

However, I share Mr Bernard's other sentiments on the matter and will advise him on another truth. Firstly, the observation that all those teachers - including UG types, education officers other hopeful professionals and even, I'm told, a top GECOM official - who tried or hope to go, won't have their whole minds here. "Their Minds Will Not Be Here" on their primary mission in our schools, I agree.

They are oriented to seemingly greener pastures. I trust that most of them could still be true to their calling, exhibit some professionalism and care for young Guyanese. Even before they eventually leave.

I've also heard Deryck Bernard sounding off on the solutions to the teacher-migration problem, the reason for the low, rock-bottom morale in the teaching service administered by the Ministry and PNC solutions to overseas recruiters "ripping the guts out of the education system" by siphoning off the very best of our teachers trained by the government.

Well Sir, if your party assumed office tomorrow, the trek would not stop. People have a right to expect more immediate improvements in the quality of their lives. Deterioration began in your time. That is why too, Mr Bernard, Guyanese will still continue to migrate. Under your party's administration, they fled and fortified themselves in Barbados, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. They have assets which their pre-1992 sweat earned them. Don't you think they and their relatives here would want to enjoy that? It's sad, unfortunate but true. The slow pace of development here - for a myriad of reasons - de-motivates. They'll always take their chances elsewhere.

They're not as committed or patriotic as you and I are. Have a go at your leader's position Deryck. I'm behind you"

And when I die...

"Births-and-deaths": I nearly titled this item. In December, I commented on the departures and farewells for many mothers who had apparently decided to spend Christmas on a Higher Plane.

Now the tragic deaths of Laxhmie and Andrew Murray. Again, I won't cover ground already trodden. The losses have been noted. The grief and shock all recorded as severe. The words of the robust "And when I die" come to mind: "And when I die, there'll be one more child born in this world to carry on..." That always seems doubtful at first but I suppose it happens. Life - even a little emptier for those losses - goes on.

So that "life goes on," let me hope that they play an interview Laxhmie did sixteen days ago with Winston Benn, Malcolm Corrica-Canary and me. It was, of course, on calypso. It'll be used, if it did not burn. Now in the midst of life and death we are in the midst of life and death. I had another birth anniversary a few hours ago. One of my minor but significant Gifts? A perpetual calendar! It covers 275 years!

PM Clem says...

Don't you just love CNS "PM Clem"? In these challenging, sometimes troublous times, Clem makes very bold, open public statements. Depending on your perspective, this journalist of three decades experience can excite, trouble, provoke or scare you. Some might want to sue him or condemn him. But fearlessly, he does his thing - Me? I now tolerate the man. With a different style but in the mould now, of his Party Leader, PM Clem speak out.

Now here are a few of last week's declarations by Clem - without comment: (i) eighteen thousand Brazilians are being registered to vote! (for PPP or "Justice"?) (ii) the famous lady was murdered; (iii) any GPSU strike this year will be worse than the 1999 fifty-seven day effort; (iv) elections will be by August/September this year and the government will fall, (Is GECOM's Surujbally ready?)

Perhaps I'll feature Clem fortnightly this year. Agreed? Se you at Saturday's Calypsos!

`Til next week.