One trait shared between the two winners of this year’s President’s Medal is the quality of being well-rounded.
Both Veshala Goon and Saanjali Maharaj devoted themselves to academics and extra-curricular activities. In the case of Goon, she did something different every year including: board games, martial arts and yoga. Maharaj studied classical Indian dance and playing the guitar. We congratulate both for their achievement as well as all of the nation’s scholarship winners.
Their glory is a bright spot in the current gloom cast on schools and students by a range of disturbing videos.
But the quality of being well-rounded is not to be regarded as simply part of a simplistic formula for academic success. It goes to the root of the objectives of education. Being well-rounded should be regarded as a goal, in and of itself. For education is about deepening the individual’s engagement with the world through a range of disciplines, practices and activities. That engagement is one which should be critical and analytical, and should teach students how to live pragmatically and immediately in their current environment. As Confucius remarked, “He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”
Not only do we congratulate all of these young achievers, but we salute the staff of the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College which can now boast of achieving a hat trick of President’s Medal winners. It takes much to prepare students for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE) and the teachers and parents connected with this school have clearly instilled discipline and venerated the value of sacrifice.
It is also notable that more than a year after being in the spotlight for serious indiscipline problems, El Dorado East Secondary School achieved a national scholarship. Ajay Ramjit has won an Additional Scholarship in Natural Sciences.
Once more the girls have outshone the boys. Special mention must be made of St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain, and Naparima Girls High School—with 38 scholarships each. It is an irony that in a world were females constantly battle inequality, this is one area where they vastly outperform males. If only the world of work would catch up.
The latest results must also be see in the context of the need for long-term planning to ensure we can draw on these future university graduates and not lose them to the brain drain.
We have no reason to question the patriotism of scholarship winners or their commitment to their country. But too often, after the noisy and celebratory publicity of their achievements, little is known of their progress.
Rarely do we hear stories, years later, of specific achievements being made by these same individuals in their mother country. What we do hear a lot of is the migration of our top talent to foreign nations where they then make contributions there.
Who can blame scholars who are faced with some of the dismal realities of life in Trinidad and Tobago where crime and security remain problematic; where white collar crime goes unpunished and where corruption is all too prevalent?
Still, there is something to be said for staying in a place and trying to make it better.
Whether the State is correct to adopt a stance of suing scholarship winners for their funds when they fail to serve out the terms of their contract is another matter. This is a sensitive issue as it engages moral, legal and deeply personal questions of place and identity.
A balance must be struck between protecting the interests of the State and acknowledging scholarship winners as human beings seeking what we all seek: a better quality of life.