Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Jamaica a come from far": The need for mentorship

G-d caused me to meet an amazing elderly gentleman on my way to work on Monday, June 22, 2009. This gentleman was an employee of the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, and though we were strangers to each other, he stopped to give me a lift.

As we travelled together, the gentleman informed me that he was close to retirement, as he was in his sixties. Not one grey hair was on his head though. He did not look sixty any at all.

He then went on to speak about the history of Jamaica, and the history of those who worked at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. He said, "Jamaica a come from far!" He made mention that many lecturers and employees of the University were persons who during their childhood years, went to primary school barefoot. That many Jamaicans were poor in those days, and owned nothing. He contrasted that with today, where many lecturers are now driving comfortable and even luxury looking vehicles.

Even I myself cannot remember in my school days seeing anyone come to school barefoot. Every child had their shoes when I went to school back in the eighties and nineties. Mark you, students did take off their shoes and socks to play and romp. But I do not remember anyone that actually went to school barefoot. But then I went to prep school (private school), so my experience may not count.

Today many Jamaican owns a car, while all Jamaicans, apart from the homeless (and Mutabaruka) own shoes. Today, I also see no Jamaican children walking barefoot to school.

The University of the West Indies has also played a role in causing many Jamaicans to arise out of poverty, through both employment as well as preparing Jamaicans to be employed as professionals in the private or public sector.

However, all this perspective is missing to a lot of young persons who are growing up. Many in the garrison communities of Kingston do not realise that life in Jamaica today is far better than it was in the sixties. That there are more opportunities for them to be employed and to escape poverty.

This information can not be passed on if the older generation do not pass it on to the younger generation. The younger generation need to see that they are a privilege generation, born in a land with greater opportunities and benefits and as such must not waste these opportunities. The young must know that they must not take their present for granted, and must use this present to create a better future for themselves and the generation to come.

I felt spiritually refreshed listening to this gentleman, privileged and with a sense of gratitude for my opportunities. How much more this attitude could have been felt by some wayward youth if he had the opportunity and discipline to sit under such an elder.

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