Our Creole Month didn’t make much of a splash that year even though it was quite an occasion, ground-breaking you might say, if perhaps falling short of actually being epoch-making. Of course, in these parts, groundbreaking ceremonies do not necessarily lead to monumental achievements: Consider all the golf courses that were never completed, the hotels never even started, the promises not kept. I suppose viewed in that light the unmarked and unmourned passing of our Creole Month that year was just, pardon the pun, par for the course that was never built.
But excuse me, you must be wondering what is going on, so let me explain. As I have mentioned previously in my musings, some of us really believe that the National Language Creole has a significant role to play in our schools, so we decided to spend a month at La Guerre School not far from Babonneau.
I mention the school’s location because I know there are quite a few of you who do not have the faintest idea of where La Guerre is – and for those of you in the north who are smirking at this apparent ignorance of local geography, ask yourselves if you know where Gertrin is in the south.
The interesting thing about our month in La Guerre all those years ago was that it really was a Creole Month. Didacus Jules, who was the P.S. in Education, and Mario Michel, who was the minister, were both in favour of the project and had given us their approval to go ahead. In those days, it was apparently possible to get approval from the top two honchos in a Ministry and then get on with a project. It was up to them, if deemed necessary, to let their minions know what they had approved.
It was only in later years that we realized how tender were the toes of those below ministerial rank to the actual enactment of projects approved from on high without the permission and involvement of lower level functionaries, and how poorly communication between the ranks functioned.
It does not surprise me, if what Rick writes in the STAR is true, that Prime Minister Kenny Anthony makes decisions without consulting his underlings or seeking approval from the House before guaranteeing loans, or doing what he thinks he does best, etc. It’s just how things are done here. Authority rules, always has done. John Compton did it, why shouldn’t Kenny? It’s only when a minister is too weak to rule his own house that creatures surface from the quagmire as in some oriental B-Movie and take over the world.
Anyway, to get to the point, we were given permission to give Creole lesson each day after the Common Entrance Exam was over to classes that had nothing better to do than wait for the school year to end. A group of us attended school each day for a month, taking turns to hold classes and to give individual help to students who had no expectations of any success in the Common Entrance Exam due mainly to their inability to read and write sufficiently well.
Assisting us, we had people from the team that translated the New Testament into Creole including Pastor Peter Samuel who still toils tirelessly in presenting his Christian beliefs in Creole. We had the nascent Bonjour Sent Lisi team, and Marcian, as always, was around. We taught reading and writing using the New Testament and some of the thirty or so Creole storybooks we had by then produced.
At the end of the experiment, children who had never completed a book before had proudly worked their way through at least ten in Creole. Children, who had been given up for lost, had learned to read in Creole. Dozens of books, even hundreds, disappeared because we allowed the kids to take them home to read to their parents, and of course they were never returned.
But it didn’t matter; there was a thirst for reading in Creole, even perhaps a pride in being able to read and write in the national language.
GIS spent a day with us recording every lesson. Sadly the finished product never saw the light of day, at least as far as I know. Month after month I enquired to no avail. Just another wasted day of shooting; it was after all, only patois.
But seriously, we showed, albeit on a very small scale, that children who could speak some Creole and were already literate, could learn to read and write in Creole in no time at all. More importantly, we demonstrated that some children who for six years had not been able to learn to read and write in English could ‘master’ the skills in a matter of days using Creole.
Now that was a Creole Month worth celebrating.