Better in The Bahamas? Yes… But it can be better

Is it better in The Bahamas?

Although Bahamians can produce remarkable creativity and generosity when you least expect it, that is a question that burned deep in my consciousness in view of the 2019 cinematographic black eye that Netflix delivered to our corporate face, which was already swelling from Europe’s recent sucker punches designed to knock our financial services industry out of the ring.

Many Bahamians (including this writer) were afraid to watch the Netflix exposition on the “Festival that never happened” and which I rechristened “Fyre in the Hole” for its explosive potential. The discerning were blessed with an unexpected and, I’m sure, unintended bounty in the kick-The Bahamas-again-game.  To my great and delighted surprise, the island of Exuma and at least one Exumian emerged from that mire as beautiful shining stars in that damnumentary.  The incredible beaches and waters of Exuma sparkled, shouting truth in advertising with every frame of their brilliant, fortnight-vacation-worthy appearance in the infamous film.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Tourism couldn’t do better in promoting Bahamian hospitality than Exumian restaurateur Maryann Rolle, who is making a strong run for being named poster girl for decency and courage in the face of financial ruin. Those who have contributed to her GoFundMe page, most have felt similar vibrations from The Bahamas’ newest screen sensation.

Better yet, the Acting Comptroller of Customs bristled at the effrontery of the filmmakers for mucking the name of her department about in the effluvium that was Fyre, confident that her people had done the right thing in the face of powerful inducements. Just as important, the credible Minister of Finance could attest to the fact that Customs had observed all the proprieties in the debacle. Hurray that at least one branch of officialdom could resist the seduction of the “dark side” that is the under-the-table brand of personal enrichment.

Best still, The Bahamas has to stand high in the rankings of peace—We are still blessed with birdsong rather than bombs. We can still hold peaceful elections and our children of both genders still by law and practice attend school unhindered by promoters of twisted philosophies that count as articles of faith murder, rapine, rape and generally treating women as cheap commodities.

Yet, “better” in The Bahamas is a work in progress, as it is across the globe. Betterment, by its very nature, will ever be an unfinished symphony until we jet off to celestial regions. If the news stories are accurate, “better” in The Bahamas would have taken more discernment and skills than were evident in the action or inaction of a key government ministry or among a raft of service providers when faced with the F-word—“Fyre”.

Too many Bahamians were dazzled, duped to deep-six commonsense by some fast-talking carpetbaggers, a troupe of bikini-clad supermodels, who papered the social media orange in support of Fyre, without having their agents determine whether that supposed flame had enough fuel to feed a blazingly successful rave. (Next time, ladies, learn that the colour of success in The Bahamas is an aquamarine so spectacular it can be seen from outer space.)

We must do better in future. It starts with accepting the realities of 21st century and the preparation it takes to successfully negotiate them. This means that the traditional brand of comprehensive school education, which puts out graduates ready for little that is practical beyond selecting the most shock-worthy prom outfit. Fyre-proofing demands far more.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) supports this notion in its report titled “New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning Through Technology”. It notes: “The gap between the skills people learn and the skills people need is becoming more obvious, as traditional learning falls short of equipping students with the knowledge they need to thrive.” That document places particular emphasis on social and emotional learning, promoting the ability to collaborate, communicate and solve problems.

Even more usefully, the WEF offers a list of sixteen core 21st-century skills, divided into three categories: Foundational Literacies (How students apply core skills to everyday tasks): Competencies (How students approach complex challenges) and Character Qualities (How students approach their changing environment). Achievement in these areas would have gone a long way in avoiding the debacle of spring 2017 that rained contempt upon The Bahamas.

The foundational literacies encompass literacy, numeracy and scientific, ITC  and cultural and civic literacies. Too many students leave high school shaky in basic literacy and numeracy and even less competent in the cultural and civic domains. Thanks to the popularity and ubiquity of the smartphones, the current graduates seem far more sensitive to ICT than previously.

How many of today’s students or post-school adults are equipped with the other skills WEF proposes—critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration, curiosity, initiative, persistence/grit, adaptability, leadership and cultural and social awareness.? All, as an aggregate, are so necessary to catch wind of the fishy odour of fraud. Do current scholastic syllabi and classroom practice promote these valuable assets with any consistency or at all?

Even people who are not experts in the delivery of education can doubtless see the centrality of the foregoing sixteen elements in this rapidly evolving, fast-paced, often deceptive century, especially in the terms of discovery and innovation. We can’t expect employers to supply the lack. They are less and less willing to train and expend the funds necessary to mould the young person with baseline skills into an employee who is not just a nondescript cog in the wheel, but someone who can contribute real power to help drive an enterprise forward.

A better Bahamas requires the current generation to be adept at all sixteen skills, but as a developing nation, still defining its identity, critical thinking, collaboration and cultural and social skills are non-negotiable. To these, I would add environmental literacy and the awareness and appreciation of how vital our land, seas and communities are to the quality of our future.

All who call this place home must accept that a better Bahamas is not only a work in progress, it is hard work, but the pay off cannot be matched. It’s ours to earn for the best of many vital reasons— To avoid being duped in the future by new con men who are sure to descend on these blessed islands to try to catch another “Fyre”.