Education for Endurance

If you are a descendant of enslaved Africans, the fact that you are reading this is also living testimony that your ancestors did more than just endure. They aspired. They had hope. Existing for hundreds of years in bondage, stuck for generations deep, being considered as beasts of burden, and still they aspired to freedom, for better. Think about it. What kind of indomitable spirit must a person have to risk learning to read, knowing that by sowing seeds of knowledge they risked reaping a whipping, and probably it would not bring any change in their status as slave? Without clear sight of the end they pressed ahead. With hands and feet restricted, they understood that the key to freedom was in their heads.

“The race is not for the swift but for those who can endure until the end.”  I can’t remember where I first heard this, but I always thought that it was a quote was from the Bible.  A friend informed me recently that it’s not exactly.  It’s apparently a combination of two Bible verses, Ecclesiastes 9:11 and Mathew 24:13.   That said, the point about the need to endure resonates. 

To keep going without a clue how it will all end is not easy.  To maintain hope when all seems hopeless can seem crazy.  Some will call you a fool if you keep striving for better when there is no guarantee that your efforts will not be in vain.  I often wonder what was it that kept those Africans enslaved on the plantations going.  How did they find it within themselves to endure, without an end to enslavement in sight? 

Able to endure

As the official story goes, the indigenous population, those the Europeans called Indians, were the first choice for slave labour.  But they did not hold up well under the pressure.  The weight of enslavement was unbearable for many and the end came swiftly.  The priest Bartholomew de las Casas is the one who is said to have first suggested that Africans be brought to work instead.  He believed that they would be able to endure.  If you are reading this and you are a descendant of one of those Africans brought here enslaved, you are living proof that Bartholomew de las Casas was not wrong. 

If you are a descendant of enslaved Africans, the fact that you are reading this is also living testimony that your ancestors did more than just endure.  They aspired.  They had hope.  Existing for hundreds of years in bondage, stuck for generations deep, being considered as beasts of burden, and still they aspired to freedom, for better.  Think about it.  What kind of indomitable spirit must a person have to risk learning to read, knowing that by sowing seeds of knowledge they risked reaping a whipping, and probably it would not bring any change in their status as slave?  Without clear sight of the end they pressed ahead.  With hands and feet restricted, they understood that freedom was in their heads.

Making wrong things right

The enslavers understood this, too.  This is why education was kept from enslaved Africans for so long.  Even when access to education was granted, it was restricted to religious education.  This religious education was specially designed to tie up the African’s head rather than set it free.  You see, education can also be a set up.  So much so that some set their minds against it.  But generations of Barbadians have been working to set things right.  The educational system has never been perfect.  It is still in need of an overhaul, and it will be a while before we can get it right.  But the race is not for the swift, but who can endure.

Even when the only benefit to education was mental, in their heads, enslaved Africans sought education.  Realising that the race would continue beyond them, education could be passed on to the next generation to help them run their leg of the race. Generations of Bajans understood that even an imperfect education improves your options.  If given the option to improve their education, they took it. Today’s Bajan has more options for education than ever.  Now, there is a range of options offered offline and online, that is ours for the taking. 

For a lifetime

While the Ministry of Education is taking a deep look at reforming our educational system, Barbadians don’t have to wait to take their education into their own hands.  In taking charge of your education means you just have to take what you are force fed like it was in school.  The Ministry of Education will focus on schooling.  But education is so much more than schooling.  You are sent to school.  You may have to go after education. Schooling is for a time.  Education is for a lifetime. 

The race is not for those who accept their schooling and “done dey”.  It is for those who see that education is ongoing and enduring and essential to those who want to keep on until the end, whenever that may be.  We may not be able to see what the future has in store, but we can look on history and see that whatever comes, education can help us endure.

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