Learning about traditions with Caribbean Yard Campus (January 29, 2019)

The Caribbean Yard Campus (CYC) is offering classes in local languages, grassroots organising and traditional medicine as part of their 2019 Dry Season Programme. The deadline for registration for the Programme is January 31.

The courses include CYC’s first Conversational T&T Sign Language Course, entitled See Me Speak; Nou Ka Palé Patwa, which offers an opportunity to communicate with the Caribbean kwéyòl speaking community; Planting People, which will teach gardening techniques and simple projects to make backyard and small farms more productive and profitable; Panchayat, a 12 week course for aspiring business co-operative developers and community organizers; and, Sweet Broom and Bitter Bush, the Science of Traditional Medicine. Facilitators include Salina Peterson, Richard Mendez, Shango Alamu, Alan Thierry, Cristo Adonis, and the Co-operative Development Division of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development.

CYC Director Rawle Gibbons said the courses were chosen based largely on discussions at the Convois of Yards, “where members deal with challenges in their organizations or where there is evidence of gaps in our legacy of traditional knowledge. Our approach is that education should be a self-developing and, at the same time, community-building experience. We connect people with communal sources of knowledge as a form of self-empowerment. It is the lessons of this experience we hope they take away and transfer to others. The problem is that for all but a minority of achievers, our system of education has been itself dis-empowering and manifestly dysfunctional.”

“Our work seeks to build self-confidence through the knowledge that is ours, as a basis for self/communal/social development. We see this failure of education as a national, even regional, crisis.”

Sweet Broom and Bitter Brush facilitator Alan Thierry said he hoped students would “appreciate the diversity of plants and plant substances with biomedical value, and pursue further independent studies of this. Exposure to these topics is potentially very useful to people who are highly motivated to acquire and then apply the vast background knowledge to the problem of disease. This would allow independent personal assessment of pronouncements and prescription, both within the field and in orthodox and unorthodox medicinal traditions, both of which can exhibit errors and frank deception.”

Facilitator of See Me Speak, Salina Peterson, said it’s important for hearing people to learn T&T Sign Language (TTSL) “so we can all communicate comfortably. The hearing people who come to our classes can learn sign language in a fun, engaging way and then use this skill to support the deaf community in whatever way they can. Hearing people should learn about deaf culture because deaf people learn a lot about the hearing world and try to communicate. If we are all equal then, shouldn’t hearing people learn about us as well? Deaf culture is also complex and wonderful and worth the attention.”

Peterson said her course has been designed with a range of activities, including “games and opportunities to communicate with a wide range of deaf people, like sporting events, family days and movie days. I hope the participants would be engaged and also take the opportunity to practice using the language, as well as be exposed to the different ways that Deaf people use the language. It is also important in learning about any culture to interact with the people, so having the chance to see deaf people organising and coordinating events as well as seeing them liming just like hearing people is extremely valuable.”

Gibbons said marketing and getting the word out has been a challenge in getting people to enrol in the courses. “The people who have enrolled in previous programmes come from all backgrounds and are very appreciative of the experience of our programme. Courses in patois, agriculture, indigenous medicine have consistently received good registration numbers. We have been introducing new courses every season, so each will take some time to reach its optimum level. All courses are open to the public, and there are no pre-requisites except for your curiosity and desire to learn more about some of our locally used Caribbean languages and traditional practices.”

For more information and to register, call 232-0959, find Caribbean Yard Campus on Facebook or email caribbeanyardcampus@gmail.com. Courses cost $1200 and monthly payments are available. Teaching begins April 4.

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