by Gabriel J. Christian

The Dominica Technical Wing of the Dominica Grammar School was opened in 1962, in part a gift of the United States. The Technical Wing taught welding, metallurgy, wood working, technical drawing, and other linked vocational skills. The titans of technical instruction I remember included Mr. Severin, Mr. Robinson, and Mr. Leatham. The graduates of this endeavor in vocational education include notable welders like Edgar Robinson, Vivian Webb, mechanics such as Herbie Shillingford and Georgie Ifill, architect Isaac Baptiste and many others too numerous to mention who have blazed a trail in the professions.  One morning in 1973 while in class, I saw a car being driven around the grounds of the Dominica Grammar School that had been built out of disparate parts.  Imagine that! A car was constructed of diverse parts on the grounds of the Dominica Grammar School.  What have we built today, almost 50 years later? For one year, in third form, I studied technical drawing under Mr. Leatham and woodwork under Mr. Robinson. That experience changed my life for the better and made me a confirmed believer in the power of technical education in transforming lives and powering national development.

Today, there is a woeful lack of technical education in Dominica’s schools and the mentality of “Sewo” (Sewo=good-time, jump-up, carnival and bacchanal atmosphere) has deformed the character of a nation.  Instead, we have a make-work program called NEP – National Employment Program. The NEP, in almost five years, has built no model farm, no student dormitories, no factory or graduated any students in:

  1. Metallurgy
  2. Woodworking
  3. Welding
  4. Plumbing
  5. Electrical engineering

All these skills were taught at the Technical Wing. Technical Wing graduates helped to build the Londonderry Youth Camp. They helped to build Arawak and Arbedee cinemas. They helped to build the Government Headquarters on Kennedy Avenue, along with schools and the police Headquarters on Bath Road. Today, NEP has not shown the vision or capacity to tutor our young to be the nation builders we need.

The China Question: Even in the colonial era, local truckers, masons, electricians, welders, carpenters got to be leaders in construction of our new nation. Today, the overwhelming majority of major contracts such as the stadium, repair of the west coast roads, are built by Chinese and their engineers, with Dominicans playing menial roles. China is a proud nation and would never allow foreigners to so dominate its local economy. Dominican architects, engineers, and other skilled people are marginalized. Unless our local contractors and skilled people are empowered by public sector contracting, as Chinese do in China, then we Dominicans shall never be captains of industry in our own land. Meanwhile, our boys and girls are not taught the rudiments of discipline, organization, and production, so necessary to nation building. Until we eradicate this culture which diminishes the leadership of Dominicans in Dominica, we are doomed as a nation.

The Lack of Discipline: In view of the lack of discipline our law firm assisted the revival of the Dominica Cadet Corps. Early leaders in that effort were former cadets of time, Lieutenant Francis Richards, police inspector David Andrew and Sergeant Major Ackroyd Birmingham. They were ably assisted by new recruits like police officers Joseph Raymond and Dorsen Robin, PSS teacher, musician Eddie Henry, Lincoln Robinson, photographer/booster Cecil Clark and new leaders like RSM Sherwin Mitchell. The idea was for the Cadet Corps to be an instrument of national development and so discipline our youth for personal and professional take-off. The current government has missed the point of the cadet program in national development, and today it is primarily a parade without any foothold in agriculture, and industry. The worthy efforts to impart skills training a decade ago is commended here. We must restore the cadet program and make it available as strong disciplining element to reduce juvenile delinquency and crime in Dominica. A link on the early days of the revival of the Dominica Cadet Corps can be seen on Victory 1 Television here - 

The Lack of Organization: The Cadet Corps taught me the importance of discipline and organization. No nation or civilization can be constructed absent disciplined team effort. Most of the leaders in the Dominica Diaspora movement, and many on Dominica, have their roots in organizations such as the Social League, Brownies, Cubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, 4-H Club, Cadet Corps, student councils or youth organizations. Today, these organizations are dwindling and need the help of conscious citizens to be restored, revived, and energized. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. We must escalate the importance of civic duty and encourage ALL of our people to be engaged in organizations in the community – especially our youth. The sinister “Sewo” mentality and “hand-outs” have negatived the culture of disciplined effort and organization without which we shall never rise. Hand-outs and mindless “Sewo” have made our island susceptible to modern day slavery.

The Lack of Production: Unemployment on Dominica is atrociously high because of the woeful absence of skills training. Teach a man to fish, you set him up for life. Give me a man a fish, you spoil him for life. Because of the erosion of discipline, and organization in our culture we now see an almost total collapse of production. We export nothing, except our valiant hucksters who try to export some agriculture goods.  Gone are the days when we had Bello Factory, Ma Baba Garments, Sunstyle Textiles, Buy-Trinee Textiles by Sheridan Gregoire and Norris Prevost, L. Rose & Company Lime Juice, several soft drink plants, a vibrant citrus industry, and bananas for export. Our productive sector is gone, and some people have the nerve to say, “if not passport sales, then what?” Such abysmal lack of self-confidence, ignorance of a time when we had a more productive Dominica, and knowledge of our past prowess, makes a mockery of our intelligence as a people. Any move forward in Dominica, must — of necessity –include restoration of the technical wing method across the island.

Dear Dominican people, this is a call to restore our most noble national ideals and demonstrate the power of our native intelligence.  Before China came, we Dominicans were building our country. To be a true patriot one must know our past. We must be learned, disciplined, organized and productive. China builds Confucius Institutes to study Chinese culture. Fine. We must know about all cultures. However, what about the Dominica Institute for the study of our culture when the only national library lies in ruins? Step one is to promote the vocational education mission and encourage youth enrollment in civic leadership organizations such as the Dominica Cadet Corps and others so outlined above. 

The Dominica Civic Leadership Handbook we prepared for the Dominica Cadet Corps in 2004 is available from the author.  

Dominicans have done well in the past, on and off our island. We have proved to the world that we are a capable, competent, and intelligent people. Let us restore that culture of discipline, organization, and production. Note that honest labour, encourages honesty in interpersonal relations. When a society abides bribery and indulges self-dealing then the entire character of the state is corrupted, and nothing works. Such a dedication to discipline, organization and production is key to escape the tyranny of lawlessness and poverty now stalking our land. As a society in shambles, we are like a lamb before the slaughter.  Let not our fertile island go to seed, so it can be recolonized by those more disciplined, organized, productive and cunning.

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