The George Brathwaite Column – Scaling High Bars
Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results.
I begin this article by congratulating the 2018 Barbados scholarship and exhibition winners. The bar was set very high and the tasks before these 55 studious youth were challenging, yet they accomplished through sacrifice and determination. These teenagers clearly demonstrated that discipline is an essential ingredient for clearing the tallest hurdles and ultimately reaping success. Indeed, it was their aplomb, dedication, and the commitment to strive for excellence that they engendered habit-forming traits and created new personal norms for themselves. The sterling achievements of these winners are likely to be influential for the next set of students who will see their success as moments of inspiration.
For the older observers within the Barbadian society, you now have a group of young people that can be emulated. These scholarship and exhibition winners have essentially shared with the public, lessons for being able to face challenges head-on, while reaching standards of excellence and winning! Their full potential and rewards may remain unknown for years to come, but in the interim, they have built reservoirs of self-confidence that will help them wade through other challenges which shall no doubt emerge. Hence, I encourage all Barbadians – young and matured – to draw on the pride and industry that goes into ‘building the best Barbados together’. Particularly, I invite the Government of Barbados to take comfort in the view that the aims of the nation must be set sufficiently high as to bring out the best in our people.
The public is listening and watching. Instructively, it is with both hope and caution that there is a sense that the relatively new Barbados Government, under the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister Mia Mottley, commits to the task of attaining high standards of governance in every meaningful endeavour. Surely, the Barbados Government has a special role to play in setting and achieving high standards of excellence. This means bringing about positive transformation in the public sector and in the society. It means engaging the society to reach optimal levels of governance, if the Barbados nation is to claim success. As Bonnie Blair a former USA speed skater once said, “winning doesn’t always mean being first. Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve ever done before.” So that with every stroke of a new initiative, with every formula for attaining growth and national development, Barbados must work towards being better than the previous day or period.
Equally crucial, the Government as a guarantor of public values, must endeavour to inspire, encourage, and facilitate the types of feats that transform and empower lives for the better. Much is expected from those with a legitimate mandate to set policy, pursue programmes, and meet performance goals. Government must set the benchmark whereby, the citizens as well as businesses and non-governmental organizations are given ample opportunity to improve. Central to personal and national improvement is increased civic participation combined with active involvement of our youth. From generation to generation, Barbadians must strive to become important public problem-solvers and national winners. The 55 students proved that high bars can create the zest in a nation for success.
Therefore, a crucial point of continuation for the Mottley-led administration now that the vision has been laid out, goals set, and standards elevated, must be the direct shift away from complacency. The governing and the governed must move towards embracing positives and creating the atmosphere in which valued norms, uplifting attitudes, and desirable actions are common rather than one-off experiences. Barbados’ entire governance framework must go beyond mere legislation and begin to formulate and shape agendas for national success. As demonstrated by the scholarship and exhibition winners, acts of behaviour must be tightly entwined to the desired outcomes. This simply means that the society should repeatedly do positive habit-forming things so that they too can carve winning paths regardless of the challenges.
The national consciousness in Barbados must be shepherded to attain and surpass standards of excellence in all our procedures and practices. Also, the mechanisms that are geared for success ought to be conducive for fostering national integrity. In other words, the Barbados Government apparatus must be strong and nurtured by a culture of truth, courage, and ethical behaviour in and outside the parameters of the Government. High standards and national goals are straddled when we ensure that integrity matters in shaping the national character of Barbados. Integrity comes alongside other attributes such as confidence and persistence in nation-building. Certainly, it matters what becomes engrained as a national culture in the pursuit of excellence.
There are also the elements of efficiency, accountability and effectiveness that must be consistently visible in governmental performances and actions. Government must be the example-setter and, the standards that are set for the governed, should be more than political optics. The governance framework must translate the ambitions of a nation wherein everyone can realise his or her responsibility for contributing to national development. The distinguished economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that “government is supposed to act in the interests of citizens.” Leadership in the Barbados Government must be sufficiently determined to work assiduously so that the peoples’ expectations are reasonably met.
The successful scholarship and exhibition winners demonstrated their inclination for multi-tasking while keeping their eyes on the coveted prize of goal-attainment. Despite the standards were high and required effort and commitment, it was by using their diverse methods, compromising with friends, appreciating the support of parents and guardians which sealed their eventual triumph. Surely, the standards of excellence that the Barbados nation wants to achieve must be reachable and not left to dither or become elusive due to indifference and ill-discipline. Decisiveness, timeliness, and technological advance can make positive differences to anticipated outcomes.
Again, the scholarship and exhibition winners have stories to share that can inspire many to reach for personal and national success. On the ball is the Minister of Education, Miss Santia Bradshaw who noted that “the numbers, while they are increasing,” indicate that “the students are working hard. They have something to work towards.” Hence, the power of the Barbados Government and how the Cabinet utilises its distributive and incentive tools should augur well for national development.
In fact, Miss Bradshaw in speaking for her Cabinet colleagues and bearing in mind possible increases associated with scholarship and exhibition winners, advised that they are “prepared to make allowances for the increases because we recognise the importance of education to development of the country.” I would argue that the Mia Mottley-led Cabinet has zeroed in on the importance of investing in the nation’s youth and for allowing opportunity to meet ambition. There is now a purposeful effort to reclaim the lost ground that was ceded in the last decade. The winning students showed that aptitude is key for scaling high bars.