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Monday 27 January 2020
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Decolonising education

From left: Keianna Luces, Dylan Colthrust and Jasmine Alexis read story books at Bocas Lit Fest at Nalis Port-of-Spain last Wednesday. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE
From left: Keianna Luces, Dylan Colthrust and Jasmine Alexis read story books at Bocas Lit Fest at Nalis Port-of-Spain last Wednesday. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE


EDUCATION International (EI), of which TTUTA is a proud affiliate, has always affirmed that education is a fundamental human right and a public good, the means by which people can realise their maximum human potential through the enlargement of choices. It is also the means by which people are empowered to enhance the quality of their own lives and to build a better future.

However, over the centuries, education has been used as a tool of dominance and control as civilisations/societies attempted to expand their empires and influence. Very often, this was done at the expense of indigenous cultures, languages and religions.

Colonised peoples have and continue to be stripped of their social and cultural identities because education was used as a means of oppression and intellectual and economic enslavement, rather than a means by which knowledge is created and minds are liberated. Many societies have and continue to be systematically dismantled and/or reconstructed based on the agenda of colonising forces.

EI, in recognition of the full range of universally accepted principles of human rights that must be applied equally to all, regardless of social or cultural backgrounds, has consistently advocated for the expressions of these rights, fully cognisant of their capacity to significantly contribute to the richness of education. It believes that such an approach to education enhances its power to maximise human potential.

EI fully believes that knowledge creation must be democratised and that diversity in all its glorious forms must be the platform for its creation, for it is the means by which people are validated.

The dynamic nature and purpose of education facilitates diversity, while encompassing universally accepted principles of human rights. Human dignity demands that education be allowed to blossom and develop while embracing social and cultural diversity, for no singular group of people should be forced to adopt an alien identity in order to access quality education.

This has and continues to be the hallmark of past and present colonists, creating generations of people who are devoid of self-awareness and a sense of belonging. The transient nature of such souls makes them malleable to manipulation for ulterior motives.

Unfortunately, this is the tale of our history. As an education trade union and as educators who are supposedly liberated from the influence of such cultural imperialism, we must play a leading role in this process of decolonising education, denouncing and dismantling structures that have been used to subvert the rights of displaced peoples like ourselves, minorities, and those whose voices may not be loud or forceful enough.

Given our fundamental beliefs in principles of democracy, human rights and social justice, we must never allow education to be defined exclusively for and by any singular group acting on selfish principles. Nor should any such group be allowed to lay exclusive claim to knowledge creation based on antiquated social constructs.

Our education system has been repeatedly described as being dysfunctional and out of sync with the demands of modern-day human development. In its current configuration it has been unable to meet the demands of our unique circumstances, having been conceptualised by a colonising power against a specific economic agenda that treated humans as capital to be owned and exploited.

Unfortunately, we persist with this antiquated factory education model much to the detriment of our well-being and capacity to be the best we can.

In forging a new education paradigm, one that is the vehicle for the emergence of a modern society that is globally competitive and respectful of all human rights, we must engage in calculated introspection and reflection to truly understand who we are. Our focus must be based in inclusion.

As a rainbow people, whose identities were considered desirable for subservience and exploitation, we must recognise and respect the need to create space for, and validate the existence of, all cultural influences, including those indigenous to our shores.

This must be reflected in our curriculum if our children are to be infused with a true sense of citizenship and national identity. While our history cannot be changed, it must not yolk us to a past characterised by contempt and disrespect. Our curriculum must never ignore, or worse yet denigrate, any group.

The global rise of leaders who promote hate, exclusion, racism, xenophobia and bigotry threaten to take us back to that dark past. Our quest to decolonise education must be mindful of this global trend and should be the catalyst to ensure our diversity is one of our greatest assets.

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