Bishop Speech - On the Occasion of Grenada Boys Secondary School (GBSS) speech night – [17 December 1981]
NOTE: The speech reproduced below was taken from the eleven  pages of a document issued by the Government Information Service; Office of the Prime Minister, Grenada, People's Revolutionary Government. The formatting has been altered to facilitate readability.
Comrades, young people who have been educated at GBSS and other schools like it will have to play a central role in the building of the new society for many years to come.
It is mainly they who, for the next several years, will have to provide the nation with the professional, technical and administrative skills and services needed for modern development.
They will be asked to have the patriotism and commitment to render these services for much lower salaries than they would be able to get as professionals in the developed countries.
As tomorrow’s young workers, they will be expected to have the patriotism and commitment to use their education selflessly for the scientific, economic and social development of our nation.
Why do we have this expectation of these young graduates?
We expect this of them because they are in the most privileged educational situation that our nation has to offer.
They belong to one of the small minority of schools to which the past elitist society has given far more benefits than were given the vast majority.
GBSS and the handful of schools like it have been given the best teachers, the best facilities, the best curriculum, the best opportunities in the context of the old society.
Today we can look at these provisions with a critical eye and say:
The subjects taught were inadequate here and irrelevant there, the teaching staff not fully developed professionally because of the lack of opportunity, the examination system biased in favour of a small intellectual minority, the methods of discipline autocratic and repressive, the whole system, in fact, archaic and unsuited to the goals of the just society towards which we are developing.
But critical as we are of the old system, we have to recognise that as part of that small minority, today’s graduates have a special kind of duty and service to discharge to the Grenadian society which made immense sacrifices to give them their education.
SACRIFICES OF OUR WORKERS:
Let us reflect on the sacrifices of the society on which your education rests.
Small and middle farmers and agricultural workers are the majority of Grenadian people.
Together with a handful of industrial workers they create the main wealth of the country through the commodities they produce.
It is largely the income from the product of Grenada’s manual workers that pays for education of the student.
Some might ask:
Why is paying for my education a sacrifice on the part of the people who created this wealth?
And the answer:
It is a sacrifice because their children, the children of the poorest workers, do not benefit in proportion to their numbers from the education that they are paying to provide for you.
Manual workers in our country are the chief creators of wealth, yet comparatively few of their children ever got the change to go to a secondary school
It is the poor majority, not the affluent minority, who suffer from the shortage of school places and of scholarships.
In 1975, 65% of the two hundred Common Entrance Scholarships went to children from affluent families, yet affluent families are only a tiny percentage of the society.
Today, because of the Revolution, we have increased that 200 to 1,300 scholarships to secondary schools, and we have made secondary schooling free, but that still does not solve the problem of the shortages of places.
Over 3,000 children are trying to get into secondary schools, and we have only 1,300 places to offer them.
Though the analysis has not recently been done, you can be sure that even now most of the children who did not get into secondary school are from families in poor circumstances.
The children of the minority but more affluent families by one means or another, virtually all get into secondary schools.
You do not see them in the senior section of all-age primary schools.
You do not see them on the whole, in Junior Secondaries.
You do not see them out of school after standard six.
In contrast, by one means or another, the majority of children of the poor are denied places in secondary schools.
They are force either to drop out of school, to go into the very deprived and neglected senior section of the all-age or primary system.
As I mentioned earlier, only a small proportion of them, relative to their numbers, get into Secondary School through the Common Entrance.
NO EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY:
According to figures over the decade 1970 to 1980, there was an annual average of 18,000 children in the public primary and the free-paying primary schools.
If they [sic] had been equality of opportunity, you would expect there to be the same number in the secondary section of the school system.
But there were not.
Only an annual average of 115,500 students were in secondary schools.
What happened to the other 12, 500 post-primary youth, young people ages 12-16 years?
Some 3,500 stayed in all-age primary school, and there were no school placed for the rest – more than half the numbers of post-primary youth.
The old society, brothers and sisters, flung half our youth, barely literate and not equipped with employable skills, onto the streets.
There they either because part of the thousands of unemployed, or joined the ranks of the poorest, most deprived and exploited workers in the country.
Undoubtedly, this was the fate assigned to the children of the country by the old colonial and neo-colonial school system.
Even today more than half of them still get no opportunity for a secondary education.
Only about 25% of them get into secondary schools.
You GBSS students sitting here tonight are part of that 25%.
Some of you are from relatively affluent families, others from families which the old society kept in circumstances of poverty.
But all of you, no matter what your background through accident of birth, are united by the privilege of an education that is the best society has to offer.
You share the privilege of parents who have made the maximum sacrifices of time and expense to put you through school.
Your country has given you this gift of its top level education at great sacrifice and expense.
Now you must decide how you are going to serve the society that has put you on such a firm and confident footing to face the future.
Many of you have already shown, by your membership of and excellent work in the Student Council, Young Pioneers and National Youth Organisation, that you are committed to working with your sisters and brothers to improve yourselves and serve your country.
You have inherited a tradition of the struggle of the youth against injustice and for the building of a new and just society.
Now, I repeat, you have to decide what is the best way in which you can put your talents and energy to the service of our poor and working people and what contribution you can make to build our new society.
SCIENTISTS AND TECHNOLOGISTS:
Some of you might want to prepare yourselves to be the future natural scientists of Grenada – the agricultural scientists, the chemists, the physicists the biologists, the medical scientists and the laboratory technologists.
It will be your responsibility to study how natural systems work, how we can adapt to them, manipulate them, control them, harmonise with them so that the standard of living of our people and their economy is pulled upwards.
You scientists and technologists will be vitally important in the immense task of help8ing to develop Grenada’s natural resources using both indigenous and imported technology in a way that will create new industrial development, increase jobs, reduce our dependence on imports, and earn foreign exchange.
Let us consider, for example, the role of the natural scientist in relation to the spices we produce.
If our scientists don’t put in the necessary research and creative solutions to enable us to develop oils, or perhaps medicines, or perhaps perfumes from those spices, as well as improving the traditional spice blends for use in food preservation, then the scientists of some other country will carry out this research and development, their people will get the new industrial jobs created out of it, their economists will identify and corner the markets, their countries will reap the profits of industrial development—and Grenada will continue just to grow the spices and export them raw and unprocessed.
Our scientists and technologists have the responsibility of developing and implementing alternative energy systems, using solar energy to go some way towards saving the huge amounts of foreign exchange that we spend on imported fuel.
Our scientists must be the creators of new technologies, and must be the people who work to diffuse science and technology into the economy and amongst the masses of the people.
In the past, few people indeed from GBSS would have dreamt of becoming farmers.
But GBSS and our other secondary schools today must produce youth who are excited by that career, by teaching them through creative work combined with the study of agriculture, that the new farmer is a scientist and a highly trained technician.
Farmers in the new society must be at home with research, experimentation and its applications, they must apply new methods of production in order to increase it, they must be able to persuade their neighbours that a scientific approach is the only correct approach.
It is our secondary schools, which must make youth see the farmer as a hard scientific worker using machines, irrigation systems, appropriate fertilizer and pest control methods, not any longer as a slave to drudgery and cutlass technology.
OPPORTUNITIES IN MANY AREAS:
Some of you might want to become the historians of our society, researching our past, writing down our people’s experience and putting it on film, on tape and on stage, activating communities, and developing students and worker groups around historical and cultural research.
You future historians will be holding up a mirror so that our people can see themselves, so that our people can develop the self-confidence of knowing where they came from and who they are and where they are going.
Those of you who prefer the social sciences will be studying the social and economic characteristics of our people, their relationships to each other in a variety of groups.
You will help the society to analyse the structure and implication of its slave-based and colonial economy and society of the past so that they can help you to plan for its transformation in the future.
You will be working almost around the clock to collect and analyse statistical data, to draw up technical plans and to help the people in every community implement this transformation that you and they have planned.
Some of you might prefer to become environmentalists and engineers, helping our people to achieve a harmonious balance with the land in which they live.
You will be the geographers, the town-and-country planners, the architects, the land surveyors, the road and sewage engineers, the foresters and the landscapers who are so necessary to the well-being of our human settlements.
Some of you might to into foreign affairs, becoming emissaries to all the countries of the world to develop relations and represent our missions abroad.
The technical-minded among you will help to make the objects we need in everyday life and to service and repair the many and complex technical systems in our homes, on land and sea, and in our factories.
And there are many among you who will work in Civil Service to keep our ministries running smoothly—a task which is absolutely vital to the new society.
And there are those among you (as we saw so clearly earlier tonight) with the special talents of the artist: the painter and sculptor, the musician, the poet, novelist and dramatist.
You artists are the one who re-create the experiences of our society in a way that helps people to understand and celebrate visually, orally and emotionally, their past and their present and their future.
You are like the historian in that you hold up a mirror to the people.
You portray their life, with all its emotions, its tensions and contradictions, all its struggles, its hopes and fears, its failures and successes.
You who will become Grenada’s artists will help to enrich the spirits of our people and inspire them to struggle even harder to reach our new goals.
No matter what is the career to which you commit your talent, energy and work, that career must be built upon the solid experience of physical work under the guidance of the working people of this country.
Young people must, while studying, also realise through experience that labour is no joke, that this is the foundation upon which society is built and maintained.
Knowledge serves as a preliminary preparation for labour, but also emerges from labour.
Science supports and facilitates labour, but also is developed through labour.
That is why our slogan, “Every worker must be a student, and every student a worker” must become a way of life for our people.
Each youth must be a small worker within this mighty network of collaboration and this is why a work study approach is central to all relevant learning.
NEW TEACHERS FOR THE NEW SOCIETY:
I have left the teacher to the last, because the teacher has the most extraordinary and the most special of responsibilities in our new nation.
Some of you are going to be the new teachers in our new society.
You will have to be all-rounders yet specialists, the people who will inspire successive generations of our youth with a comprehensive view of all the aspects of our development that I have outlined above, yet must also lead them into the specialist techniques of studying each discipline using rigorous and disciplined habits of work and research.
The new teacher in the new society cannot just define his or her task as helping students to master content and pass examinations.
Our teachers today, by their example and their pedagogy, must introduce their students to a new methodology of learning.
They must enable their students to learn effectively, through concrete labour, through experiments, through research and field work, through discussion, critical analysis and regular habits of study.
They must ensure that students will not only master the fundamentals of each subject but will themselves be able to develop new content.
Our teachers today must be the creators of instructional systems that will help to develop this new type of student.
Across the school system, working through subject panels that meet regularly, they must produce new textbooks, new language-teaching methods, new visual material in film and filmstrips suitable for Caribbean needs.
Across the school system they must organise their students for collective work in agriculture, for research in the community, for group projects in the classroom, for drama, art and sports, for foreign language learning, for laboratory work, for computer work.
I have deliberately added computer work because this idea of computer-work for school students is not far-fetched: the computer today is an essential part of mathematical learning and of scientific and social analysis, and computer skills are easily within the grasp of teenage students.
The use of the computer has an incalculable effect on the running of the society.
Consider the immense impact that it has already has in the Ministry of Finance, enabling our economists to keep such a tight daily check on what money is spent in the country that considerable savings have been made possible
and planning has been made more realistic.
The computer can have equal and even greater impact in other areas, especially if the new teacher trains the student in its use.
TEACHER AND STUDENT: CO-PARTNERS
The new kind of learning I have described can only be inspired if teachers and students are co-partners in a search for knowledge.
The old type of teacher who imposes his or her idea by mechanical lecture, by the cane, by autocratic and dictatorial classroom management can never inspire the majority of students in the quest for learning.
The old type of teacher was a product of the old colonial system of education.
The result of this system was extremely low standards for the majority of students, even in the best of schools that the old society had to offer.
Over the past decades, the GCE “O” and “A” level pass rates have been horrifyingly low in nearly all of the subjects.
For examples, between 1970 and 1980, the O’Level pass rate in Mathematics has been only 23% - that means that 77 out of every hundred students who sat that O’level maths exam, failed it.
In 1980, one school entered 115 students in O’level English Language, and got 10 passes.
In 1980, 70 students in Grenada sat O’Level Spanish, 11 passed; 11 entered French, 3 passed; overall, in the neo-colonialism that characterized most of the decade of the 1970’s, the number of students passing O’Level exams dropped by 25%—from a 43% pass rate in 1970 to a 33% pass rate in 1978.
This incredible wastage of bright, talented youngsters was due to many factors beyond the control of the teachers.
Traditionally, learning facilities have been extremely poor.
There are not enough science labs, and practically no equipment for the teaching of mathematics, art, geography and technical subjects.
Libraries are so inadequately stocked that habits of reading and research cannot be systematically developed.
Only a tiny minority of teachers have had an opportunity to get university training, and an even smaller minority have professional training in educational methodology.
The curriculum, the textbooks and the examinations have been designed by foreigners and by colonial-minded West Indians who have forced upon us the old, strictly theoretical, one-sided approach to learning that made it so irrelevant to the needs and lives of our students and our society.
In this situation most of our teachers have tried their very best, but they are forced to be working with one hand tied behind their backs.
It cannot go on.
In the new society all these facets of the old, distored [sic] educational system must be completely transformed.
How do we transform education?
It is an incredibly immense but awesomely vital and necessary task.
We cannot tell you the answers, because we don’t have them yet.
The students, the teachers, the parents, the concerned people and we the government—all of us together—must analyse the problem and work out answers.
With the training of our primary school teachers in the NISTEP programme, with our nutrition and textbook and uniform subsidies, with the school repair programme, with the organising of university training abroad for over 300 students and with the CPE laying the foundation of mass adult education, with our work-study approach and with our planned program of emulation in each school annually, we have made a brave and significant start in correcting some of the more obvious deformations of the system.
But we still have an immense task ahead of us in the real, creative reform of the school.
Our urgent, overall goal must be to work towards creating a single, unified education system with equal provision of learning facilities and opportunities for all.
We can no longer be satisfied with only 25% of our students getting a secondary schooling, and a secondary schooling at that which is not even remotely adequate to our new goals, in spite of being the top education level of the old society.
We must work out a system which gives every child a secondary education, and a secondary education which is a vast improvement over the present one.
We must achieve ways of equalizing government expenditure on each child, of offering specialized teaching in a wide variety of subjects by trained teachers, of providing all schools with adequate library, laboratory, audio-visual and sports facilities, of providing all children with the preparation that will enable them to take and pass our regional Caribbean Examinations Council exams—exams, which by the way, are much more relevant, much more rigorous and of a higher standard than the old GCE “O” Level exams.
As we achieve more and more every day our young people will be better able to choose careers that will contribute to the building of our new nation in the way I described earlier.
With the help of their teachers, with the help of their parents, with the help of their revolutionary government, and with a serious and concerted effort by all of us to revolutionise the educational system, we have no doubt that the student of today will in the near future really become true builders of the new and just society that we are in the process of constructing.
I wish to conclude by complimenting Cde. Ashby, your headmaster for his excellent work and I’ll like also to congratulate all the outstanding students, the prize winners and the cultural performers.
Praise must also go out on this occasion to the Ministry of Education for its excellent, innovative work.
Finally, let me wish all of tonight’s graduates a productive role in the building of the new and just Grenada.
Long live the Grenada Boys Secondary School!
Love live the Grenada Revolution!