OPEN LETTER: BETWEEN TWO CULTURES? ANTHROPOLOGY OF RASTAFARI EDUCATION

Editor, permit with teaching and research experience in West, Central, East and North Africa offering of some insights into the perceived impasse of home learning by people Rastafari and the Ministry of Education. As Rastafarians, we are intuitively guided by the words of H.I.M Haile Selassie 1.
“Education develops the intellect; and the intellect distinguishes man from other creatures. It is education that enables man to harness nature and utilize her resources for the well-being and improvement of his life. The key for the betterment and completeness of modern living is education. But, ' Man cannot live by bread alone '. Man, after all, is also composed of intellect and soul. Therefore, education in general, and higher education in particular, must aim to provide, beyond the physical, food for the intellect and soul. That education which ignores man's intrinsic nature, and neglects his intellect and reasoning power cannot be considered true education.”

Genesis the 1970s-80s when Rastafari students were systematically expelled and or suspended from most schools and places they had called home specifically for their dreadlocks adorn; tertiary opportunities were similar negated. This period accounted for the first post-Independence internal migration of teenage citizens to nethermost spaces in rural Barbados. Denationalised and without customary homes, schools and employment prospects, we created parallel to the State enterprise unbreakable kinship communities, sanctity, affection economy, indigenous vernacular and theocratic-monophysite governance ethos. Most of the elder generation of Rastafari would have agonised, not only on sending their first born children to public schools, but moreover so, on what measure of mal-treatment and or reverse-discrimination and learning schisms likely encounter. Still entrenched in Barbadian society four decades on, the Rastafari child spends the greater part of his waking hours in a place which does nothing to confirm in him any important aspect of his Nilotic identity. Effectively, he is treated as an English child, albeit a ‘Black’ one, but with certain ‘disadvantages’. His own cultural originality is almost ignored, so that he only receives that sense of himself from his parents and community out of school hours. It is unrealistic for us to expect this type of respectful instruction in institutions that are designed to herald the history and culture of one nationality over another and one ability superior to others.

Bongo Spear 3

The recent highlighted legal obfuscation on surface appears to prosecute an imposed unequal condition of hybrid British education whilst neglecting factual causation of ministerial policy capacity gaps that are integral to understanding the targeted community’s international Caribbean view and their African heritage lineage. In order for Barbados education policy to be holistic and our society made whole, it must incorporate essential aspects of students’ histories and cultures. This requires quality attainment of knowledge resources; EXAMPLE: spiritual ecology, ecological anthropology, ethno-graphic, ethno-biological and ethno-pharmacological practices of students, African history (origins) and her cultural organisation of citizenship and sovereignty. Indeed the Barbados Country Assessment of Living Conditions (CALC) 2010 Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA) (pg. 57- 104) suggest responses and strategies for bio-cultural survival of vulnerable groups. The methodology of PPA (4.3.2/4.4.2/4.4.3/4.4.4 et al…) explicitly lists Rastafarians as subjects of social exclusion and institutional discrimination including police harassment’, whereas the fundamental freedoms guaranteed through the Declaration of the Rights of Persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities (47/35 dd 18/12/1992) and Barbados Constitution Review Commission recommendations remains oblique.

Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Human Rights Committee at its Eighty-ninth session (2007) adopted the following concluding observations:-
1. …after an interval of more than 18 years, the State party having not submitted a report since 1991 when its third periodic report was due, constitutes a breach by Barbados of its obligations under article 40 of the Covenant and an obstacle to a thorough consideration of the steps to be taken to ensure the satisfactory implementation of the provisions of the Covenant.
2. Encouraged the State party to undertake the necessary measures to incorporate the Covenant into the domestic law through, inter alia, ongoing constitutional reform process (art. 2).
3. The Committee notes that the State party has not yet established a national human rights institution (art. 2).
4. The State party should establish an independent national human rights institution, in accordance with the Principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (Paris Principles) annexed to General Assembly resolution 48/134. Consultations with civil society should be organized to this end.
5. The Committee is concerned by the fact that the laws of the State party do not provide for the granting of refugee status and do not codify the principle of non-refoulement (arts. 6, 7 and 13).
6. The Committee, while taking note that the Constitution prohibits torture, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, remains concerned about the lack of a legal definition of torture in domestic law (art.7). The State party should introduce a legal definition of torture compatible with article 7 of the Covenant.
7. The Committee requests the State party to widely disseminate the present concluding observations and its third periodic report to the general public, possibly by publishing them on the government website, making them available to newspapers, in public libraries and the Parliament library. The State party is also strongly encouraged to discuss the present concluding observations and its report with the Barbados Association of Non Governmental Organizations (BANGO).

Bongo Spear 1

Ras Bongo Spear King

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