Some humans are remarkable young people. The odds they go through and yet make it through life make them special. Mark Benschop told me that I watched his kid, Ryan grow up, and therefore he would appreciate my presence at his son’s milestone at the 2018 School of the Nations’ graduation. The event was on Thursday afternoon, and I couldn’t bring myself to be elsewhere.
When I saw Ryan Benschop on stage, my mind went back to my daughter’s graduation at the very school, many moons ago. My daughter and Ryan Benschop are not your average run-of-the-mill children. When parents are constantly harassed, victimized, and there are attempts on their lives, the children are bound to suffer. And my daughter and Ryan Benschop did suffer. It was a miracle that my daughter survived mentally to do superb at CXC and to perform exceptionally at university.
It was a miracle that Ryan Benschop mentally survived to top the A’ level class at School of the Nations. As he gave his speech, I thought of all the things we social activists put our families through when the repressive hand of the State visits us. As Ryan delivered his valedictorian speech, Benschop and I exchanged some comical remarks about our time in the trenches. It is always good to laugh at your experience with State violence long after, because it helps to heal the wounds.
There were many deliveries at the graduation and as these beautiful teenagers, representative of the multi-ethnic mosaic of Guyana, spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder that long before 2018, I heard those very sentiments at my daughter’s own School of the Nations graduation. And though I have never been to any high school graduation since my kid’s, I guess those very sentiments since my daughter’s milestone so long ago are expressed to the parents and invitees each year. But Guyana remains the same, despite the annual exhortation at these high school ceremonies that we must be God’s people, good people, and help other people.
My daughter heard those words of wisdom at her graduation, but got a rude awakening when she went to UG. There weren’t God’s people and good people at UG. So many teenagers have been imbued with the spirit to make life better for others as they listened to those talks at the last day of their high school life. But will Guyana prepare them for a life that must be lived in the joy of helping others and sharing the pain of others and standing up for the values that differentiate humans from monsters?
It crossed my mind as I watched those really lovely young Guyanese come up one by one on stage to receive their passport to social elevation, if in their lives there will also be philosophical elevation if they remain in Guyana. Host of CNS Channel 6’s early morning programme, Naim Chan, looked at me and David Hinds straight in our eyes and asked; “Are both of you optimistic about a future for Guyana?” David said he has to be. I expressed what I deeply felt about my country. It was the opposite to David Hinds’ hope.
I want to be optimistic. I want a future for my country. But I want to see those young people that were at School of the Nations’ graduation last Thursday evening, join their counterparts elsewhere in Barbados, France, Trinidad, Iran, the US, Canada, Venezuela, Jamaica and other countries too numerous to mention, to stand up for what is right, stand up against the oppression and degradation of their fellow humans.
I now leave the School of the Nations’ 2018 class with words that I would have loved to deliver to them. It is a song from the “The Lion King” titled the “Circle of Life”
“From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking step into the sun
There’s more to be seen that could ever be seen
More to do that could ever be done
Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give
In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s a leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
‘Til we find our place on the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life
Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with our scars
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than could ever be found
But the sun rolling high through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round”
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