Moving English Forward?

March 14, 2012 in Blog

I find this latest Ofsted report both interesting and worrying.

It comes at a time when there is a focus on the disproportionate number of black young people unemployed and the number getting 3 A Levels – 1 out of every 50 as compared to 1 in 8 whites.

Ofsted’s chief inspector,  Sir Michael Wilshaw is concerned about literacy levels in primary schools and wants to introduce a ‘no excuses culture’.  Among other things, he wants the Government to consider lifting the Level  4 benchmark at Key Stage 2 .

Interesting, because I remember well how badly the 50 experienced teachers I recruited from Trinidad to teach in Hackney’s primary schools (mainly) when I was director of education and leisure services there (1989-1996) were treated by headteachers and their UK trained colleagues, including black teachers.  Those Trinidad teachers were rightly appalled at how poor children’s reading, writing and spelling skills were and set out to teach them those skills by tried and tested methods, especially the use of phonics.  I had to discipline one headteacher who had walked into a class to observe a lesson and in the presence of 30 children had remonstrated with the Trinidad teacher and rubbed her work off the blackboard saying:  we don’t use these teaching methods here.  Read the rest of this entry →

Eulogy to Geraldine Roxanne Connor

November 1, 2011 in Gus talks, Speeches

I feel deeply honoured to have been asked by Geraldine’s family to deliver this eulogy.

I have undertaken many an assignment in my day, but none with such foreboding as this.  For, how does one do justice to such a monumental figure, one with such irrepressible…., volcanic energy, an energy which won’t be totally consumed, I suspect, even by death itself?

So, let me say to Geraldine something I had cause to say to her frequently, face to face: ‘Geraldine, behave!’   To which, quick as a flash, the reply would come:  ‘Why?  You doh see these so-and-so people getting me damn vex?’

Love still, Sis.  Whatever you might find wanting in the next few minutes, doh vex wid me!

There are many battles which are never won in the lifetime of a generation.  Struggles which are seemingly endless and which each succeeding generation must join in audacious affirmation of our right to free expression, our fundamental instinct for freedom, our essential creativity and our capacity to transform ourselves and change the world through artistic expression, through being the embodiment of the immanence of culture and through our unwavering belief in what we can be.

Geraldine Roxanne Connor was socialised and nurtured in the struggle that was joined by the generation that went before her….  Humble souls, yet iconic figures such as Rosa Cuthbert Guy, Una Marson, Cy Grant, Errol John, Lloyd Reckord, Joan Hooley, Earl Cameron, Nadia Cattouse and of course the major influences in her life and chosen career, her own parents, Edric and Pearl Connor. Read the rest of this entry →

Briefing note to Grenada’s Government

August 17, 2010 in Briefing note, Gus talks

The following briefing note was sent to Senator the Honourable Nazim Burke,  Minister of Finance for the Government of Grenada, on August 17th, 2010.

I was encouraged by your presentation at the Diaspora Conference a couple weeks ago and, as promised, I wish to set out some proposals for your further consideration.

There is a number of ways in which the Diaspora currently engage and could engage with the development of our country, some of which you began to address in your presentation.  The first and most obvious is remittances.


Sending remittances home has been part of the Diaspora’s continued involvement with immediate and extended family ever since the first Grenadian left to find work abroad.  Many of us have relatives who in earlier generations worked on the Panama Canal, in the oilfields of South Trinidad, with the Lago Oil Company in Aruba and Curacao, in the sugar and tobacco industries in Cuba and in mining and forestry in Guyana, long before mass migration to Britain and the USA in the 1950s and after. Such remittances have contributed to the Grenadian economy and to national development in several ways, e.g:

  • By providing disposable income to relatives and helping to relieve poverty;
  • By providing goods and commodities for domestic use and for farming/fishing;
  • By supporting small businesses (grocers and hardware merchants) in local villages and towns through the purchasing power of the recipients of remittances;
  • By funding the schooling and education of the children of the recipients of remittances, especially in vocational training and tertiary education;
  • By sending funds home for the maintenance, repair/extension/refurbishment of their former homes;
  • By ‘returning home’ and building new homes;
  • By starting new businesses on returning home;

To be anecdotal for a moment, my father worked with Lago in Aruba for six years prior to returning home and building a new and larger house for his growing family.  He also bought lands in the Concord Mountain which he cultivated until Hurricane Janet wrecked the country and caused people like him to dig up roots once again and seek employment and a reliable and sustainable income in the UK.  Many of his fellow workers at Lago also built houses and started small businesses on returning to Grenada, some buying and operating the old style, open-sides buses; some opening grocery or hardware stores and others working as builders. Read the rest of this entry →

Tribute to Ruby Inniss

February 12, 2010 in Gus talks, Speeches

Professor Gus John paid his tribute to Ruby Inniss on February 12th 2010, in the Church of  the Ascension, Hulme, Manchester. 

I greet Mama’s entire family and you, my brothers and sisters.

I first met Mama in 1970 and in the years that followed she became, progressively, my mentor, political comrade in struggle and very dear family friend. I regard it as a great honour, therefore, to have been asked by Elaine and the family to help construct and to deliver this tribute to their dear mother, a great mother, grandmother, great grandmother and a proud African Queen.

Ruby Marion Inniss, lovingly known as ‘Mama’, was born in Evesham, St Vincent, on 27 November 1912. She was one five sisters and five brothers and attended the local village school.

She always talked about how her elder siblings bossed her around, but our aunts and uncles insisted that we should be in no doubt that Mama did her own fair share of controlling her younger siblings. Read the rest of this entry →

Eulogy for Trevor Clarence Carter

March 18, 2008 in Gus talks, Speeches

The following eulogy was delivered by prof. Gus John on March 18th, 2008, at St. Augustine’s Church, in London, where the the funeral mass was held.

Trevor Clarence CarterI extend greetings and condolences to Corinne, Dian-Marie, Michel, Claudia and to Trevor’s siblings and their children who have come from the USA and elsewhere. Today we mourn the passing of a loving husband, father, brother, uncle, friend and comrade.

With Trevor’s passing, we have lost yet another stalwart of that postwar generation who had had a life experience with Britain in the West Indies before relocating to these islands; those who came between 1945 and 1960 and helped to define the contours of the relationship between Britain and that surplus pool of labour which it was importing from its former colonies to help restore its infrastructure and its economy after two devastating World Wars.

Trevor Clarence Carter was born on 9 October 1930 in Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, the eldest of Elene and Clarence Carter’s twelve children. Father, Clarence, was a cabinet maker and mother, Elene, a housewife. Humble and dignified folk, they placed a premium on education and on character building. Good manners, good breeding, what you might call ‘proper broughtupcy’ mattered to them even more than educational qualifications. Therefore, as soon as he could drink water, as the old people used to say, the little toddler was sent to Beryl McBurnie’s Nursery School and then on to the African Methodist Episcopal (Akal) Primary School. His primary schooling induced a love of reading and his parents encouraged him to read extensively.

That stood him in good stead when he joined J Edgar Moore’s modern secondary school. Moore had been a master at Queens Royal College but broke away from QRC, believing it to be too elitist and not progressive enough, despite its unquestioned reputation. Read the rest of this entry →