Najjar is real. Maljo realer.

The TT Newspapers should stop parading children who have done well in exams on their front pages, complete with mother, father, teacher, pundit, dog, violin and long, long plait. It creates resentment.

‘They are just crammers!’ snarled indefatigable letter-writer, Lynette Joseph, in the Express last week. That was before the results were changed, though.

The current public circus surrounding examination grades is neither good for the high scorers nor for the low scorers. Children should not be exploited as photo-fodder to sell newspapers. Celebrity is not good for anyone, far less impressionable kids. Parents shouldn’t encourage their children to show off on others. It’s against the teachings of Jesus, Krishna, Buddha and probably Muhammed, Ogun, Osirus, Papa Bois, the Mighty Sparrow, and all other authorities. Speak softly and carry a big stick, they say in West Africa.

And Najjar can kill. Facebookians of Indocentric bent find it unfair that the Ministry of Education is changing scholarship rules and SEA marks to the detriment of the ‘crammers with long plaits’. Well, life is unfair. What is really at stake is far more important than photo ops.

It is a genuine reason for concern that the school system does not meet the needs of children from TT’s urban lower class. But the solution proposed by Theodore Lewis, who got ???? dollars to advise the Education Ministry, is to abolish ‘prestige schools’. This huge policy shift could be the result of simple maljo. Theo himself didn’t get into a prestige school: he went to a private Polytechnic Institute in Sando. A former Professor of Education in a country where every lowly university teacher holds that title, he displays so little acquaintance with the field he is supposed to profess, and so much devotion to Afro-centric propagandising, that one gets the suspicion he might have been a ‘token hire’.

It is true that prestige schools perpetuate a system of inequality, but they are not the problem in TT. Education systems all over the world (except the US) have evaluation processes that determine what kind of secondary school children go to. After all, you cannot teach Algebra to kids who can’t count 17+15. You need better primary schools, remedial classes and Special Education programmes. This is simple, basic logic. As my father would say, ‘it have no maths in that.’

A huge problem in TT is that there is no curricular differentiation between ‘prestige’ and other schools: they all follow the same syllabus. So the schools that lack the disciplinary, pedagogic and normative basis that religion offers just become dumping grounds for failing children. And the home environment prepares children for failure in school.

The Professor seems mysteriously blind to these obvious elements of TT’s educational failure. He just follows the Rowlian code of conduct: ‘when in doubt, mash it up’. After you finish mash up Petrotrin, the sea bridge, the economy and Caribbean relations, why not make chokha with the education system as well?

But if you simply abolish the prestige schools, as Theo and his followers want, you will end up with a system like that of the US. And anyone who watches movies knows that the US school system fails the urban poor (a.k.a. African-Americans) even more resoundingly than TT’s. So, if Theodore gets his way, the TT government will once again shoot black people children in the foot.

But it will also shoot other children in the foot as well. Teaching will have to be pitched to the lowest common denominator and the more academically inclined will be less challenged.

So the Indocentrics should just shut their mouths! If those long plaits continue to dominate front pages, the Ministry will end up destroying the entire education system. Better to go along with any fantasy the ministry and media dream up, let the dragon dance as much as he wants on the front pages, and ensure your children get grades that will get them into good universities.

Speak softly and carry a big lathi: always a good policy.

– Robin A. Browne