Politicising our classrooms

Parents and guardians across the country need to be seriously concerned about the Granger Government’s move to use The Guyana Learning Channel (TGLC) for the promotion of Government and, possibly, party propaganda.

This marks a serious breach of trust between the Government and the nation’s parents and children whereby a television channel established with the sole mandate of educating our children is now being misused to disseminate Government “information”.

It is a new low for the Granger Government to take advantage of impressionable young minds and to use TGLC to push their propaganda. There can be no countering argument that the material is unbiased since all governments have agendas and policies that are subject to opposing views.

Since fostering debate and critical thinking are important to a well-rounded education, as they are to the very notion of democracy, it is very dangerous for children to be given the idea that only one viewpoint exists – the Government’s – and that a government comprises only the ruling party with no oppositional voice.

The learning channel is not the place for the broadcasting of Government propaganda and Sahadeo Bates alerted the public to this new direction of TGLC in a letter to the press, as did a subsequent report in Guyana Times.

It has always been imperative that educational material be carefully worded and selected in order that the lessons presented are sensitive to and sensible about the world of diverse values and belief systems that obtain in Guyana including the democratic values of fairness and justness.

Unlike most countries that have homogenous populations with pockets of minorities, Guyana is somewhat unique in having a population of six ethnic minorities. The idea of a national identity is, however, promoted as Afrocentric with token elements of Indian, Amerindian, Chinese, etc, thrown in for good measure, if at all.

The recent jubilee celebrations affirmed this prejudiced view of our nationhood and parents would be concerned that this idea will find its way on TGLC as “educational”.

Bates also wrote about his locally produced 3D animations being rejected by TGLC because of budgetary constraints. This is unfortunate since a vital part of any education is that the child gains a sense of self-worth by seeing themselves and their environment reflected in the words and pictures in their school books and programmes.

Even a basic mathematics programme that counts mangoes instead of apples would present a child with images that are familiar and make them see their world as meritorious. The impact of VS Naipaul’s work on my generation was immeasurable. Miguel Street gave us a new sense of ourselves by placing us on par with Dickens’ characters, for instance. Naipaul reshaped world literature with our presence, language and humour.

Dave Martins’ song about the Caribbean alphabet falls into this category by refashioning the alphabet with images with which we readily identify.

While TGLC broadcasts many pre-packaged educational programmes on science and mathematics that would not necessarily demand local sensitivities, it makes little sense to have the hardware of the broadcast technology at our disposal if it is only used to transmit outdated programming produced for other countries’ classrooms.

Surely there should be a budget for locally produced programmes to supplement these especially since Government can find funds for low-priority projects like refashioning Durban Park and Carifesta Avenue?

How much better for those funds to have been invested in our nation’s future, our children? How much would it take to have our children recite poems, tell a story, play games, and show off their talent? How much would it take for the significance of our national holidays – Diwali, Easter, Eid – to be explained even by the children themselves and to be appreciated by their friends?

Government talks incessantly about building social cohesion and there is no better place to start creating feelings of nationalism and pride based on mutual respect than in the classroom.

The learning channel can be an effective medium to promote social cohesion if the programmes are done correctly and with the right sensibilities towards the values, cultures and religions that make up the Guyanese nation.

It appears that the channel has fallen into the rut of mediocrity that is the standard for everything in Guyana including local television programming which, mostly, lacks imagination, creativity and even good production quality.

Now that the Granger Administration has chosen to air its political propaganda on a channel established for our children’s education, the innocence of our nation’s children is being seriously compromised along with any vision for their future possibilities.