The Employers Consultative Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ECA) applauds the indication by the Minister of Education about discussion and consultation on the proposition of a “carnival week” off for students, however the ECA urges that such discussion must be holistic and wide-ranging. The importance of such a discussion at the national level cannot be overemphasised as it has serious implications for the productivity levels in our beloved country.
While the ECA notes the ongoing concerns voiced by the Ministry of Education with regard to low student turnout from Ash Wednesday to the Friday following Carnival Monday and Tuesday, our considered view is that an entire week off for Carnival is NOT in the best interest of our national development.
In the short term, such a decision may certainly address the uncertainty surrounding school attendance but the ECA questions the long term implications this will have on the psyche of these impressionable minds. Already, the worrying loss of productivity in our workplaces (of which our schools are not exempt), due to the Carnival “holidays” seems to get going a full week before Carnival, kicking off with various marquee fetes and ending with “Fantastic Friday”. The productivity of our student and teacher population is severely compromised with a mixture of tired and sleep-deprived individuals whose concentration can hardly be thought of as optimum.
As students transition into the world of work, this sort of conditioning for a “carnival holiday” during the actual week of Carnival does not portend well and is therefore not in the best interest of the productive workforce we hope to cultivate. The ECA fears that it is not ideal and will only perpetuate our current concerns surrounding high absenteeism and declining productivity in Trinidad and Tobago.
Instead, we propose that greater focus should be placed on building competencies for resilience and entrepreneurship nationally, an effort that must begin in our schools if sustainable development is to be achieved. Even as we embrace the Trinidad and Tobago culture of Carnival with all its positive manifestations of creativity, fun and merriment, we should not allow it to descend into the realm of being counter-productive to our society. The ECA concurs that Carnival should retain its “pride of place” as a celebratory national break from work, even as our leaders seek to inculcate the tenets of self-control in our nation, such that all will know when “enough is enough” and not prolong the revelry in such a way that it has a deleterious impact on our society.
As we seek to instil the virtues of self-control, restraint and moderation in the psyche of our children, some of the current synergistic deficiencies between education, training and the world of work will be addressed. Let us not forget the eternal words of Dr. Eric Williams, the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who articulated more than three decades ago that “the future of this nation lies in the school bags of our children”. Research strongly suggests that children learn what they live. Let us therefore address the problem of absenteeism from our nation’s schools at Carnival time in a holistic, collective fashion, rather than seeking to fix the fundamental issues in a piecemeal way. To do otherwise may result in the development of various levels of undesirable tendencies, which we would have to face and attempt to conquer later down the road...in our communities and workplaces as after all, we are largely driven by habit!
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