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COMMENTARY: Student media should help tame the chaos in Dominica

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The DGS Clarion Magazine Editorial Staff in 1978
Standing L- R: Renwick Val St. Hilaire, Norman Francis, Emanuel Finn, Colin Lloyd (deceased) Leslie Shillingford (deceased): Knelling from R-L: Merlin St. Hilaire, Erickson Garraway, Quentin Clarendon, William Cuffy (deceased)

Journalism and news reporting is chaotic and often times not an orderly job.  I learned that fact at the Dominica Grammar School (DGS) during my senior year in 1978 when I was the editor of the school’s magazine, ‘The DGS Clarion.’ My staff and I accepted the fact that we were Media and went about the task of covering our ‘school world’ and the issues that were affecting us in an unbiased manner.  At the Clarion, we ran and supported our operations by selling advertising spaces to Roseau merchants and from magazine sales. Of course there were no smart phones or the internet at this time.

We even gently tip toed into the forbidden, punishing, unforgiving and chaotic world of Dominican politics.  But real and authentic journalism is a tough business which requires hard work and courage.  We understood in a very fundamental way that that is the duty and responsibly of all organized forms of journalism to attempt to bring an understanding to the issues that concern people and our country. The DGS Clarion began the process of our understanding of this seemingly impossible task of responsible journalism in Dominica.

During high school we always looked forward to reading the publications of all the operating high schools on the island. There was the St. Mary’s Academy ‘Marion Messenger’, the Convent High School ‘Touch’, the Portsmouth Secondary School (PSS) ‘Bombo’, the Sixth Form College ‘SifoCol ‘Courier’, the Wesley High School ‘Eek’ and of course, the DGS ‘Clarion’. We learned many important and encouraging lessons from these student publications during those defining years.  Indeed this period was a golden era and renaissance of student enlightenment.

Our high school universe was small and we dealt with the challenge of trying to tame it. We reported on teachers who gave too many demerits and detentions. This was a problem especially for students who traveled daily to school in Roseau from as far away places like Grand Bay and points south and the west coast as far as Colihaut. Often times they arrived to school late and were punished for tardiness.

Being late on Monday mornings was also a problem for students who hailed from the far rural areas who went to their villages (homes) on the weekends. This was a frequent experience for me due to the fact that I either went home to LaPlaine or visited my grandfather and cousins in Jalousie, Castle Bruce on some weekends back east. At early dawn light on Monday mornings the 3- ton passenger trucks departed the villages arriving in Roseau long after the 8:00 a.m. school assembly. The terrible conditions of the pot –hole mountainous roads in the rain forests which lead to the east contributed to the lumbering trucks’ late arrivals in Roseau.

We also reported on teachers who were tough graders, who won the debate competitions, who got promoted in the Cadet Corps and who excelled in the GCE exams. We covered the celebrated, competitive, colorful and popular DGS Sports Day, the junior carnival calypso king and queen competitions. We would conduct investigative reporting on the conditions of the school bathrooms and the DGS sports grounds.

But as enlightened and diligent academically focused students, we viewed ourselves as the future leaders of Dominica and we used our platform (the Clarion) to get slightly involved in the hot button political debates and issues of the day. We quickly found out that reporting on political events in our island home was (and is) and maybe will always be complicated and challenging. That daunting task can be best described as an attempt to package chaos, confusion and nonsense. The real challenge lies in trying to organize people, government and opposing sides, ideas, positions and actions.

The big divisive issue in Dominica from 1976-1978 was Dominica’s political independence from Britain. In August 1976 at the Labour Party 21st annual convention in Salisbury, Premier announced the declaration of political independence. This was also the position of one of his nemesis, the left leaning (Grand Bay based) pro-independence Popular Independence Committee movement headed by comrades Rosie Douglas and Pierre Charles. Mr. Douglas and Mr. Charles went on to become Prime Ministers but met their unfortunate and untimely deaths while in office.

Premier John’s other nemesis, the Opposition Dominica Freedom (DFP) Party which was led by Ms. Eugenia Charles, called for a referendum on political independence for Dominica. The Labour Party’s leader third nemesis  the Trade Union Leader of the Civil Service Association (CSA) Trade Union leader Charles  A .Savarin. Mr. Savarin would go on to be the Leader of the DFP. DFP ‘s position was that whilst Dominica should get its political independence, Premier John and his Labour party were incompetent to guide and rule Dominica as an independent nation. Do you remember the bumper stickers that read: ‘Independence No: Referendum Yes’? Our island home achieved its political independence on November 3rd, 1978.

The significance of political independence to us was self-determination, realization and development for Dominica and our people. Whether we have achieved that noble goal is another question. The Clarion’s editorial in May 1978 was entitled, ‘Today versus Tomorrow: Independence must Come’. A few days after edition was released, the regional and well respected Barbados Advocate carried a story on its front page with headlines: ‘Students support Political Independence Movement in Dominica’. This acknowledgement by a respected publication convinced us that we were contributing in a progressive way to a highly sensitive and politically charged debate in our land.
Of course, the state radio (DBS) announcers who were political appointees and ‘spin-doctors’ for the government got some political mileage at our expense and efforts. We were unable to convey to the radio that we were nonpartisan and were only contributing to the public discourse in the most professional and respectable manner. Has anything change today with that radio station since 1978?

Today our Nature Isle is in a state of utter confusion and pain on a much greater scale than it was from 1976-1979. The recently held general elections where Labour party won added more controversy, questions, chaos and quagmire.  The Opposition United Workers Party has filed a law suit challenging that the December election results were not free, fair and people voted or (not) in fear with heavily armed foreign troops on the ground. That task of packaging that chaos is a long, and uphill climb. Now is an opportune time for future leaders (today’s students) to step and make their invaluable contributions like we did some four (4) decades ago with our student populations.
With the availability of computers and the Internet, there may not be any excuses for all the high schools not having any publications such as a student electronic magazine, online blog, and radio or television programs. Does any high school has a ‘student’ Facebook page, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter account or other social media platforms where students can debate and discuss these big issues facing our nation? It is imperative that our best and brightest young minds write, debate and publish on the various troubling and vexing controversies dealing with their school world and governance issues that are threatening our island home.

When young citizens of a democratic nation communicate (and engage) with one another in a respectable, intellectual and responsible manner, something simple but magical happens. We begin to see each other as human beings and not as mere political objects repeating what politicians and their die-hard supporters and operatives bellow out. They will begin to understand that we are all Dominicans and there is no need to fight each other for political reasons. The most invaluable lesson they will learn is that in Politics there are no permanent friends or allies, just permanent interests. The Trade Unionist who became a journey-man politician, Charles A. Savarin, went on to be the President of Dominica in a Labor Government is a living poignant example of that fact.

Such exercises will leave an indelible mark on our young minds (as it left on me) that political winners and losers are part of the process but the most cherished civic duty should be conducted in a fair and equitable manner following established democratic laws, rules and policies. Give our high schools youth the guidance, space, intellectual and professional journalistic nourishment and support and they will do their best to address our island affairs and its complex, yet solvable issues. In the end, they will be progressive and active participants in the development of our country. This we cannot afford to ignore because our future as a people depends on it.





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IN PICTURES: Carnival Tuesday 2020 in Roseau

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IN PICTURES: Carnival Tuesday 2020 in RoseauPics from carnival parade in Roseau on Carnival Tuesday.    

The post IN PICTURES: Carnival Tuesday 2020 in Roseau appeared first on Dominica News Online.





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ANNOUNCEMENT: All Manufacturers invited to National Symposium on Manufacturing on Thursday 27th February 2020

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The Dominica Manufacturers Association invites ALL Manufacturers to the 2020 National Symposium on Manufacturing, under the theme: “Stepping Up Production for Sustainable Employment and Export”, at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday 27 th February, 2020 at the Goodwill Parish Hall.

The main objective of the National Symposium is to develop a Strategic Action Plan for the advancement of the manufacturing sector.

Manufacturers who are interested in selling their products at the Pop up Shop, in the ground floor of the Parish Hall, should contact the DMA at Telephone number 245-6415 or email: dmamay2010@yahoo.com.

A special invitation is extended to visiting Dominicans to take the opportunity to purchase local products to take back to their respective countries.

All manufacturers and other stakeholders who are invited to the Symposium are kindly asked to be on time for a prompt start at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday 27th February, 2020 at the Goodwill Parish Hall.

 





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COMMENTARY: A Clean and Green Dominica -by Sharon Philogene

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I see it sometimes hiding among the grass as soon as I step out the front door in the morning, and I wonder why it is stalking me. During my walks, its eyes peer at me from everywhere and I cringe, repulsed at its very existence. Whilst walking along the sidewalk which flanks the Lindo park on Goodwill Road, it pursued me.  I have become its prey, for the many players on the field, the adults sitting on the benches enjoying “the view”, listening to the painful pleasurable sounds associated with sports training, unwinding with idle chatter of all sorts seem to have escaped its clutches. I scanned the area hoping that others had become aware of its predatory nature, but I seemed the only one trapped.  I lifted my head perforce I could escape, and the green carpet which adorned the mountain brought some relief, but only temporarily.  I ascended the hill, my tongue tingling with the bittersweet reality of the regressive nature of our progress.

A few years ago, Chikungunya came knocking on our door and the authorities embarked on an island wide clean up to ensure the breeding places of mosquitoes were eradicated.   It was amazing to see the amount of garbage that was “discovered” and carted out of the environment all over the island.      Garbage that had become part of the landscape, that had grown on us until it became pleasing to the eye. It took Chikungunya for it to become an eyesore to those around it.

I grew up a witness to children and adults sweeping yards and the front of homes early in the mornings before the business of the day overwhelmed all. It was a very important aspect of the cleaning ritual at most homes around the island, and we all had our “cocoye” brooms to master the task. Even as recent as the 1990’s, my nose would be assaulted with the antiseptic smell of the popularly used “Jays” while on early morning walks through Roseau.  It could have been deduced then that cleanliness was the mode of the day.  Today, however, cleanliness seems to be an abstract concept and I am held hostage to garbage.

Today, I say without reservation that many children are not taught to clean.  If they are, then, they are not cleaning, not yards- front or back or anywhere else. I wonder sometimes whether they know that their environment must be kept clean, that garbage is something that must be disposed of responsibly, as if disposed of irresponsibly, their lives could be impacted negatively.  I write frustrated but concerned about the impact that our inaction is having on our children and our environment. I often tell my students that I don’t live in a pig sty, so I will not work in one.  I refuse to teach unless the classroom is clean and very often 95 percent of the class will laugh and do nothing, while a mere five percent will clean up.  This is troubling because it forecasts what’s ahead for Dominica if we don’t all put our shoulder to the wheel.

If we really want to be honest, we will accept that “clean” is not an adjective that we can really ascribe to Dominica because we are failing in our responsibility to keep it clean, and since children model the behaviour they see, I am working in “garbage hell”.  I have closed my eyes and tried to see the yard of the Dominica Grammar School during the 80’s and though I am sure that we brought our snacks in some sort of bag, I am trying to recall my principal making a fuss about the “invasion of garbage”, and at no time can I recall my principal having to stand like a sentinel, microphone in hands  to announce to students that they must pick up their garbage and dispose of it responsibly before the business of “learning” other things can continue.  At school, students eat and drop bottles, plastics, other food wrappers and containers on the ground and walk off.  They also shove these food wrappers or plastic bags into any aperture that materializes before their eyes.  What is worse is that they often sit right among that garbage so engrossed in their games that they are not affected.  When the bell rings, they walk off without a care in the world.  If I invited parents to school at the end of recess, there would be enough work to keep them busy for close to 40 minutes, work created by their children who enjoy wallowing in trash.  There will be pieces of bread, empty juice boxes, plastic bottles, etc. on the windowsills.  Some will close the window once in the classroom, so they don’t see it.   During classes, pencils are sharpened and shavings are dropped on the floor, papers rolled into a ball and tossed into a corner and when those who use the garbage bin realize that it is full and in need of being emptied, they turn a blind eye and begin to create a landfill behind the door.  I am not sure if we are blessed at my school with the children who enjoy a dirty environment or whether that blessing extends to other schools.

I should not be washing my dirty laundry in public you say.  I should teach them how to behave responsibly at school, but I see no other option because this generation of students are tone deaf because the messages they receive, and process verbally and visually are incongruous.   I hear stories from parents which begin with,” He does not have anything to do at home,” and continues, “so he has enough time to study and do homework.”    It is a moment of epiphany for me and I say to myself, “No wonder he does not know how to keep his environment clean.”    I do accept that we have progressed so much that our children are spared menial work.  We are a more affluent society, and in many homes there is a helper, so children do not have to wash dishes, make beds, sweep and mop, scrub bathroom and steps. Then we are also able to afford gardeners and landscapers, so someone weeds, cuts the grass, cleans the dog poop and takes out our trash.  We have car washers, so they don’t have to wash the cars, either.  Life is about progress and our progress is allowing our children enough leisure time to prepare to contribute to irresponsible living in society.  What’s more, adults whose behaviours are key to the educating of children in society, teach children either in word or deed that someone else is responsible for his/her garbage. When a box of KFC hits the road in front of me after being tossed out of a car, I understand the siege I am under from garbage.  When a show ends and I am not sure whether it took place on an asphalt surface or grass, I understand the siege I am under from garbage, when I must walk on the road because a business place has taken over a part of the sidewalk for its garbage and pick up will not be done that day for whatever reason, I understand the siege I am under from garbage.

Since school is meant to teach more than academics, we can only demand that while under our watch they practice social responsibility, but we are often stymied by the voices of parents who cry out they did not send their children to school to clean.  That they pay school fees -a mere pittance when the cost of tuition and school upkeep a year is taken into consideration- so the school should pay someone to clean.  I walked to a nearby school last week right after recess break and commented to a colleague that I see they are facing the same problem we are with irresponsible dumping of garbage: she respond that if they did not become  litter wardens during break, it would be worse. I shook my head and wondered if Dominica will soon become like some of the garbage infested places I see when viewing TV.

I believe that we are failing our children when we engage in and enable the scarring of our environment.  Hopefully, we are a more enlightened people.  We know the value of a clean environment to our health and the health of Dominica.   We should not wait until we have another health scare to clean up.  We claim to be the ‘Nature Island of the Caribbean”.  Lately, I have been hearing that we are the “Nature Island of the World”.   I think, however, that we are delusional.   I am not sure if saying this enough will convince us that this is so.  I am not convinced and will not be unless I see more respect being afforded to our natural environment.    Change is often not welcomed, so there will be much resistance.  This is a call for introspection-the question- “how have I contributed to the state of Dominica’s environment today?  It is only when it is realized that personal action is powerful that the wave of change will help turn the tide.  Nature is doing its part.  The Green is showing up everywhere again.  There has been effort geared at planting trees.  What about the effort to keep Dominica Clean?  The work must begin now!  We must keep Dominica clean and green to proudly hold on to any claim of being a “Nature Island”.





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