Mindful of the outrage last October over a video of primary school students singing along to soca artiste Bubbles’ It Bunning song, Education Minister Anthony Garcia has warned principals to be careful who they invite to perform at pre-Carnival school activities.
“We are asking our principals, when you give consent to pre-Carnival activities, where you invite soca persons or calypsonians to do a performance, you must be careful of who you invite.”
Speaking at the launch of the Ministry’s Schools Safety and Awareness Carnival Programme at Naparima College, San Fernando on Tuesday, Garcia told principals, “When you give your consent to pre-Carnival activities, you are to ensure that persons you invite to your school, in their presentation they must ensure whatever they say and do must be aligned to the curriculum and positive values that we want to inculcate into our students.”
Garcia told the gathering which included principals, school supervisors, teachers, students, police and TTUTA president Lynsley Doodhai, that whatever is done at Carnival forms part of the school’s curriculum. “Carnival is part of our culture,” he said as he appealed to social studies teachers to take cognisance of this and ensure that the cultural tradition is maintained through the subject they teach.
“If we don’t do that. Carnival would die. Our responsibility in school is to ensure it remains alive,” he said referring to statements over the years that the festival is dying. He said it is for this reason the ministry is actively supporting several Carnival school initiatives, such as the junior versions of the Calypso Monarch, Chutney/Soca, Panorama and Extempo competitions.
“When we give support, we can start the change. We want to ensure it’s a positive change,” he said. The audience was entertained by the students of extempo, including Kevan Calliste, the grandson of Black Stalin, and a visually impaired boy. After their performance, aided by former extempo king Brian London, Garcia said he was so impressed with their outstanding and positive performance that he immediately sanctioned an increase of an allocation from $10,000 to $25,000 for the programme.
Telling the students in the audience that Carnival is a time when they are expected to enjoy themselves, Garcia appealed to those who will be engaged in the festivities to ensure they are safe and attend school on Ash Wednesday. He said he has been observing a pattern over the years where teachers report for duty, but the students treat Ash Wednesday and the rest of the Carnival week as a vacation.
“I am appealing to you to make every effort to be at school, not only on Ash Wednesday, but throughout the week. When you absent yourself from school, you are denying yourself an education, an education that is your right. “