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We were told that licks will be shared. We trembled. Fear and trepidation permeated the primary school air as the time became nigh. Common Entrance was upon us and we approached this academic milestone with the sacred promise issued at the teacher’s desk: once you do well, your life will be fulfilled and you will receive the job you desired. This purported warranty was issued with an emphatic caveat: this can only be achieved if you pass your common entrance, do well at CSEC and graduate from a university. However, as life unfolded and the days of survival reckoning were upon us, it became painfully apparent that this concocted rule of thumb is highly subjective and contextual. I dare say, our teachers may have intentionally or inadvertently stood on the opposite side of truth. Now, it is abundantly clear that we live in a society where the boy who skipped school and had bricks in his bag instead of books, could rise to the very top if his allegiances are spot on.
Miss or Sir never told us that the key to success, in a small heavily polarized nation where the government is the largest employer and glorious opportunities abound via political parties, lies principally in one’s allegiances. Amidst the hot pursuit of academic achievements, there was not a single hint from who we considered to be pantomaths, about the harsh realities of education and professional life in the land of many waters. Having not been briefed about these bleak facts-we labored, chasing the elusive north star. In this, there were sleepless nights, back-breaking studying, stress, financial sacrifices, medical complications and yes-morally challenged ingenuity applied to tests and exams. While we toiled, some frolicked with cavalier abandon. Were they clairvoyant? Could they see that all you needed to do is get a party card and the possibility existed for there to be all manner of accolades attached to your name? So what did they do? They did not waste their time studying for common entrance they thumped their noses at CSEC and they frowned upon UG. They now beat their anti-intellectual chests and point their fingers of ridicule at us. Why? Because they simply linked the link that linked another link who contacted the big link and ended up in a big world capital representing Guyana.
LACK OF MERITOCRACY
Given that the more the links, the more the chances of succeeding, it all unfolds in the context of a society that pays little or regard to the most basic tenets of a society that promotes based on merit.
Having mentioned that, I remain in disbelief at the shocking insistent of one party leader who grandiloquently proclaimed that she is only seeking to hire only ‘PNC people’. Those sentiments are symptomatic of the general posture of leaders of the Guyanese political class. I suspect the dear leader culture has promoted the idea which suggests: you are never going to make my list for Parliament or Cabinet if there is no sign that you prepared to be obsequious. Evidently, we are dealing with a system that eschews intellectualism that is not accompanied by docility. By not giving us the raw truth, our teachers may have placed us in a great paradox. We are taught to be outspoken and utilize critical thinking, the very thing that goes against the gravamen of what is needed to succeed in a society that is not a meritocracy. As a consequence, we constructively critique the dear leader, we challenge assumptions, we display our knowledge acquired from reading numerous books and above all, we never say ‘yes’ to everything. If we had only known. If only our teachers had told us the truth: we do not live in a meritocracy, we live in an allegiance-tocracy.
I am supremely aware of the argument which suggests: you don’t necessarily need a formal education to lead and proceed to great things. High anti-intellectualism touts its heroes. Exhibit A: Winston Churchill, the great Prime Minister of Great Britain did not have a college degree. Walt Disney dropped out of school at the 8th grade and built a billion-dollar empire. Frederick Douglas was an autodidact. It is easy to laud these examples and proclaim victory but this is a whole different dynamic. Sorry to announce, my friends, the concept of merit stand strong. Certificates are qualifications that shall forever remain evidence of one’s worthiness.
There is a reason for exams, ceremonies and large learning institutions; they will forever serve as permanent barometers for merit. This scared indulgence can never be replaced by the whims, fancies and nuances of the fragile dear leader.