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  • Maxine Henry-Wilson, Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, has urged CARICOM leaders to incorporate a strong focus on regional integration in Caribbean school curricula.
  • Without this emphasis, she asserted, "a region whose history has been forged in mistrust, suspicion and division, will never integrate".
  • Minister Henry-Wilson was making her contribution to the Distinguished Lecture Series, held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Maxine Henry-Wilson, Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, has urged CARICOM leaders to incorporate a strong focus on regional integration in Caribbean school curricula.

Without this emphasis, she asserted, “a region whose history has been forged in mistrust, suspicion and division, will never integrate”.

Minister Henry-Wilson was making her contribution to the Distinguished Lecture Series, held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Under the theme “Culture in the Future of the Caribbean Community”, the lecture was delivered yesterday (April 25) as part of the eighth meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development in Paramaribo, Suriname. The three- day meeting ends today, April 26.

The Minister lamented that “up to now, our Caribbean education has not included an ideology of regional integration,” noting that, “integration cannot continue to be simply a political process, dutifully discussed in regional political and economic gatherings, but having no reflection in the curricula of our schools”.

“By now,” she continued, “more Jamaicans ought to have felt more closely Caribbean and fewer of us should be still seeing extra-regional institutions and products as superior”. Further, she added, Caribbean nationals needed to expose their children to each other, and to the cultures of the different countries in the region.

Citing research, Minister Henry-Wilson said that Jamaicans tended to be more focused on North American countries, while St. Lucians, with their history of greater movement within the Eastern Caribbean, “saw identity more in terms of the other [people] in the region, than did Jamaicans.”

This issue of identity, she noted, would obviously have implications for the outcome of the regional integration movement, “since we are more likely to integrate with collectives with whom we share a common identity”.

Turning to the issue of culture, the Minister said this was an area that could impact positively on regional economic development, pointing out that cultural industries represented the second largest contributor to the United States economy.

She bemoaned the fact that the region had not yet been able to find ways to use its competitive advantage in this sector to create meaningful cultural industries, despite universal acknowledgment of the cultural diversity and innovation of the Caribbean.

“From the invention of the steel pan and the proliferation of calypso. to the potent, captivating force of reggae and dancehall. to zuk and rhumba, the frenzied energy of merengue and the sheer dynamism .of Tropicana, the Caribbean exudes the warmth and vitality that underscore cultural prowess and powerful cultural industries”, she said.

“Our challenge,” she therefore declared, “is to develop capacities in the region and build institutions to market and position our cultural products”.

Minister Henry-Wilson also stressed that no development was possible without the establishment of adequate support structures and mechanisms for its activation. She therefore called for a strengthening of culture departments and for support financing, for regional culture enhancing strategies.

In closing, she commended the Directors of Culture in the Regional Cultural Committee for their work thus far, especially in maintaining CARIFESTA and efforts to facilitate the free movement of cultural workers and their support of regional festivals.