More systematic, comprehensive method of Hindu teaching required

Dear Editor,
It is very clear that the advent of political independence did not mean that education was free from colonial influence. Thousands of years ago, Chanakya said: “People, no matter how wealthy, cannot claim to be free if they are enslaved by a foreign culture.” More recently, Bob Marley insisted: “We must free our minds from mental slavery.”
Recently, while composing and contributing submissions with respect to Indo-Caribbean history being included more comprehensively in the CSEC syllabus to the CXC, our group discovered that the Hinduism component of the “Religious Education” subject was also about to be reviewed. Within two weeks, we created a network of volunteers from several Caribbean countries who shared their ideas and produced a proposal that was shared with the CXC Board.
We had to address terms that express the views of other religions but which were alien to Hinduism. This challenge starts with the fact that this knowledge-based philosophical system called “Hinduism” was not a religion in the first place, with no prophets or founders and not a single book. Other alien concepts like heaven, hell, and sin pervade other religions but also infiltrate the psyche of every student who was exposed to Judeo-Christian values taught in all Government schools.
This may have been reflected in the fact that only a few students register for the Hinduism option of religious education. Researchers can confirm the exact number after conducting a survey and provide an explanation for a state of affairs that many Hindu leaders may find embarrassing.
When Indentureship ended in 1917, about half a million Indians had arrived in the Caribbean. Guyana alone had the largest number of approximately 239,000. Trinidad and Jamaica also had significant numbers but a substantial majority were Hindus. Census figures indicate a gradual reduction of Hindus as a percentage of the total population over the years. Some speculate that if this trend continues in another 50 years, even Guyana and Trinidad will follow other Caribbean islands that witnessed the disappearance of the culture that came with their ancestors from India.
Of all the religions practised in the Region, there is little doubt that Hinduism is perhaps the least understood and it is necessary to teach it properly in the classroom by qualified professionals. While credit must be given to priests and the temples and similar organisations for keeping the culture alive, it is clear that a more systematic and comprehensive method of teaching is required.
The Caribbean needs intellectual spaces where the Hindu tradition, culture, philosophy, etc, can be debated. Also needed are special libraries with Hindu texts. The sordid hegemonic history must be told and recorded but Hindus cannot continue to see ghosts of colonialism and play victims forever.
No matter if schools are private or public, more parents and teachers need to persuade students to take the CSEC examination. Everyone must take some pride in global developments supporting cultural practices that may not have been appreciated by many in the Region.
Parents are well-advised to teach their children Dharma as early as possible for society now gives them ample access to Adharma. The social issues resulting from exposure to some sources are numerous, harmful including alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, and even suicide.
The recently formed group, CSEC Hinduism Advocacy Network, plans to produce educational materials or links to the same, to assist students to prepare for the examination. In addition, they will also be seeking volunteers to teach the subject online.

Caribbean Hindu
Advocacy Network