Monday, November 24, 2014


Mark Plotkin: What the people of the Amazon know that you don’t #TED :

UNESCO Caribbean experts meet to plan actions to secure World Heritage

Trinidad and Tobago joins Caribbean in preparing action plan for managing World Heritage
Published on November 24, 2014 
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Trinidad and Tobago’s Dr Kris Rampersad will participate in the preparation of a five-year action plan on World Heritage for the Caribbean this month.
Hosted by Cuba, the meeting will bring together the focal points for World Heritage in 20 member and associate states of the Caribbean, representatives of the advisory bodies to the UNESCO Convention, universities, and specialists of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the UNESCO offices in Havana, Kingston and Port-au-Prince. It is being supported by the Nehterlands-Funds-in-Trust.
Heritage Educator, Dr Kris Rampersad, Trinidad and Tobago Representative on UNESCO Executive Board
Rampersad will lead discussions on strengthening the role of local communities in the identification, conservation and management of heritage, drawing from experiences in working across the Caribbean in preparing multisectoral stakeholders in government, academia, media, civil society, local government, tourism actors among others.
A heritage educator, researcher and advocate, she was also part of the team preparing the regional action plan for Latin America and the Caribbean earlier this year. She is also the Trinidad and Tobago representative on the UNESCO Executive Board, Chair of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO, and member the executive advisory bodies of the International Culture University and the International Institute on Gastronomy, Culture the Arts and Tourism.
With the aim of devising a Caribbean Action Plan for World Heritage 2014-2019, the meeting will review Caribbean actions on heritage and develop strategies to build capacities of persons engaged in conserving, managing and monitoring heritage elements and address challenges of small island developing states, risk management for climate change, harnessing community knowledge, building cross sectoral partnerships and networks between and among actors and sectors as with education, science, communications, tourism, and others.
It intends to enhance coordination of efforts by the World Heritage community, strengthen the inter-university network, and promote Caribbean-Pacific coordination within the framework of the International Year of Small Island Developing States.
According to the organisers, “In a period of rapid social and environmental changes, the value of heritage in human development, as a repository of knowledge, an engine for economic growth and a symbolic force that brings stability and direction to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world, becomes crucial.”

Sub-Regional meeting on the Caribbean Action Plan for World Heritage 2014-2019 | UNESCO

Sub-Regional meeting on the Caribbean Action Plan for World Heritage 2014-2019

When, local time: 
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 - 9:00am to Friday, 28 November 2014 - 6:00am
Cuba, Havana
Type of Event: 
Category 7-Seminar and Workshop
Sub-Regional meeting on the Caribbean Action Plan for World Heritage 2014-2019 as a follow-up to the adoption by the World Heritage Committee of the Action Plan for World Heritage in Latin America and the Caribbean Region (Decision 38 COM 10B.4).
UNESCO Offices in Havana (Cuba), in Kingston (Jamaica) and UNESCO World Heritage Centre, in cooperation with UNESCO Office in Port au Prince (Haiti), and with the financial support of the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust are organizing this meeting.
The meeting will be attended by representatives of 22 Caribbean Member and Associated States, the 3 advisory bodies to the World Heritage Convention (ICOMOS, ICCROM and IUCN) and Caribbean universities, as well as specialists from UNESCO Offices in Havana, Kingston and Port-au-Prince, and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. In the framework of the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Adi Meretui Ratunabuabua, Pacific Heritage Hub Manager, University of the South Pacific, will participate in the meeting, which will also contribute to strengthening South-South cooperation.
- To develop and approve a Sub-regional Action Plan for the Caribbean (2014-2019), based on the Regional Action Plan for Latin America and the Caribbean, approved by States Parties in Brasilia in May 2014 and by the World Heritage Committee in Doha in June 2014;
- To discuss and approve the follow-up action to the second phase of the Caribbean Capacity Building Programme, as part of the Sub-regional Action Plan for the Caribbean 2014-2019 to strengthen professional capacities at the sub regional level for better implementing the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972);
- To enhance the cooperation with the Caribbean University Network.
- See more at:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Trinidad and Tobago at UNESCO 195 in news's-programmes_external-relations-commission-23366.html
Trinidad and Tobago vice-chairs UNESCO's programmes/external relations commission
Published on October 25, 2014
PARIS, France -- Dr Kris Rampersad, Trinidad and Tobago’s representative to the UNESCO executive board, was elected unopposed as the vice-chair of UNESCO’s programmes and external services commission (PX) to the board for the second consecutive time. The PX Commission is one of two commissions of the UNESCO executive board and is charged with examining and directing UNESCO’s programmes. It is chaired by Porfirio Thierry Muñoz Ledo of Mexico.
Dr Kris Rampersad
Now chaired by Egypt’s Mohamed Sameh Amr, the 58-member executive board, currently in its 195th session in Paris, is one of three governing organs of UNESCO with the General Assembly and Secretariat. It is responsible for appraising and informing UNESCO’s work programme and budgets. This is the first year of Trinidad and Tobago’s term on the board since it was elected by the 2013 General Assembly, when it polled the highest number of votes among candidates for the Latin American and Caribbean (GRULAC) region.
Rampersad, a cultural heritage researcher, educator and multimedia journalist, is a former independent member of the consultative body of UNESCO Inter-Governmental Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage, and chair of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO.
She also serves on the advisory boards of the International Culture University and the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism, and has worked across the UN, Commonwealth and OAS regions working with multisectoral partners in civil society, government, private sector, academia and intergovernmental agencies to devise multidimensional approaches to addressing challenges of change sustainable development.
She has devised and conducted creative interactive courses, seminars and education programmes that encourage critical interrogation of development agendas to stimulate people-centred, gender and culture-sensitive paths to progress.
These include evaluations and assessments of north-south relations and particularly the small island developing states of the Caribbean in international policy arena, particularly in relation to gender, governance, culture and education at such forums as Commonwealth and OAS Summits; World Summit of Information Society; World Summit on Arts and Culture, Commonwealth Diversity Conferences, International Conferences on Cultural Policy Research, Brussels Briefings on Agriculture of the ACP-EU, among others.
Her successful pilot strategy for such round-table engagements to explore solutions towards food security was adopted as the model for the ACP-EU International Seminar on Media and Agriculture in Brussels.
Rampersad is the author of the three acclaimed seminal groundbreaking works: Finding a Place on the Indo-Trinidadian literary history of Trinidad and Tobago; Through the Political Glass Ceiling – Race to Prime Ministership by Trinidad and Tobago’s First Female and LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago which features its literary heritage through more than 100 works by more than 60 writers since 1595.'s-programmes_external-relations-commission-23366.html

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Towards consensus in protecting our global heritage and legacy

Heritage can drive consensus and collaboration for sustainable development 

‘T&T world heritage status at risk

...fiddling while Rome burns, political imbroglio leaves custodians mum
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Dr Kris Rampersad
The Banwari archeological site is not yet a world heritage site and its potential to become one is in jeopardy with “unchecked and undermanaged development initiatives.” Speaking from Paris where she is attending the meeting of the biannual Unesco executive board, heritage educator Dr Kris Rampersad said misinformation was being bandied about concerning T&T’s world heritage status. “No one, on any side, has taken the time to check the information being presented,” she said.
Rampersad, who is a Unesco-Commonwealth trained heritage facilitator and the Unesco focal point for World Heritage in T&T, told the Sunday Guardian it was unfortunate the issue is being politicised and has become something of the rope in the tug of war between the State and the Highway Re-route Movement.
“That prevents the consensus building and nation building that occurs around a country’s preparation for world heritage status. I remain flabbergasted that with the significance and potential of heritage as a core growth sector as the alternative to petroleum and our best bet for diversification, that these most valuable timeless assets and heritage, in general, remain so low on the national action agenda,” she said.
Rampersad has been blogging about what she calls “The Other Magnificent Seven of south Trinidad/South America and the Global South” and has written to President Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar ( asking them to take the lead in securing these assets which hold enormous value for T&T’s economic diversification, its knowledge economy, and its place in our global civilisation (
In her latest Demokrissy blog post, The Politics of Disempowerment, Rampersad noted that while she has received encouragement and agreement by various sectors, some key custodians and line agencies of heritage have gone mum because the elements in focus are in the districts earmarked for the controversial highway extension, also the home districts of the President and the Prime Minister, and they do not want to get embroiled in what may be interpreted as the hype around the highway. 
“Trustee organisations and officials just don’t want to get embroiled, so it’s a case of fiddling while Rome burns.”  That has also been the fate of a petition ( in circulation on the issue, said the outspoken Rampersad, who is also an author and independent multimedia journalist.
“The fact is that neither the site, nor any of the several unique invaluable heritage elements of south Trinidad are secured in world heritage terms so as to facilitate them acquiring world heritage status as they are. “Banwari is not a world heritage site as is being claimed. It is on a tentative list which is a list that includes items states submit that they intend to prepare for such status.
“The concept being promoted of the site—the half-acre plot of where the skeleton remains were found—is itself erroneous, as a heritage site involves broader association of factors. We have not yet done the investigations nor groundwork that will consolidate the scope and value, though my preliminary independent research suggests that it is just the tip of the iceberg of more fundamental discoveries that could substantially revise how this region’s evolution and migration among others have been viewed.”
Rampersad said heritage was not a footnote in national development. “It is likely to be the lifeline to which we would have to turn in the next two decades when the oil dries up.

Shining light of cultural heritage knowledge over ignorance from UNESCO

Lord Shiva Temple in Cambodia gets Happy Divali present from UNESCO #195EX

Happy Divali from #UNESCO #Paris Where #UNESCO #195EX unanimously support UNESCO efforts in safeguarding cultural heritage of Cote d Ivoire Iraq, and other zones of conflict or heritage in danger.
Today, Divali Day, the Programme and External Affairs Commission of the UNESCO Executive Board, co-chaired by Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago also unanimously passed a resolution for establishment of an International Coordinating Committee for the Preah Vihar Temple which was subject to prolonged dispute between Cambodia and Thailand but which after a long process came to an agreement that found consensus between the two parties and was unanimously supported by the PX Commission.
Congrats to colleagues who worked on the difficult drafting and negotiation process of this and the State parties Cambodia and Thailand for this exemplary collaboration.
Temple of Preah Vijeah of Cambodia via
UNESCO World Heritage Committee

Let's also take pride in and protect ours.

Get Involved
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Politics of Disempowerment

The Banwari archeological site is not a World Heritage site and its potential to become such is in jeopardy with unchecked and undermanaged development initiatives.
It is unfortunate that the issue is being politicised and has become something of the rope in the tug of war impasse between the State and the highway reroute movement that prevents the consensus-building and nation-building that occurs around a country’s preparation for World Heritage status. 
I remain flabbergasted that its significance and potential as a core growth sector, as the alternative to petroleum and our best bet for diversification, that these most valuable timeless assets and heritage, in general, remain so low on the national action agenda.
While in all cases I have received encouragement by all parties to whom this has been addressed – heritage, tourism, development planners, local authorities etc that this is a direction Trinidad and Tobago wants to pursue, key custodians and line agencies have gone mum because the elements in focus are in the districts earmarked for the controversial highway extension, also the home districts of the President and the Prime Minister, and they do not want to get embroiled in what may be interpreted as the hype around the highway.  That has also been the fate of a petition ( in circulation on the issue.
The fact is that neither the site, nor any of the several unique invaluable heritage elements of South Trinidad, are secured in world heritage terms so as to facilitate them acquiring world heritage status as

.For more on this article and further information email

To sign the letter to the President and Prime Minister go to

Related links:
Open Letter to President Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Impacting the Suicide Pact: Government and Activist in suicide pact,,

Rio Claro Through the Kristal bowl SIDS 2014 Rural Regeneration and Sustainable Development,,

Caricom must use UNESCO agreement to leverage Caribbean Cultural Heritage:

Vandalised: centuries-old heritage tomb spanning global generations,,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Unesco doing more with less

Budget debate unesco executive board more effective n efficient #195EX @UNESCO_ExBChair @unesco @krisramp @lolleaves

cuts from $653m to $507m hamper work

See statement on #195EX here

Monday, October 13, 2014

Impacting the suicide pact

‘Govt, activist in suicide pact’

See Link: Sinday Guardian News:

..Dr Rampersad calls on PM, Pres in her mission to protect T&T’s national heritage
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Dr Kris Rampersad
An online petition has been started by heritage educator, author and researcher Dr Kris Rampersad as well as open letters to President Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar calling for the safeguarding of T&T’s natural heritage, the “other Magnificent Seven of the South.”
“It is something of a suicide pact if a state opens the doorway for destruction of its natural heritage without proper safeguarding as it is for an activist to embark on a fast to the death,” said the outspoken Rampersad, who refused at this time to specifically name the other Magnificent Seven given the sensitive and exclusive nature of her research.
Evidence of what may be clues to the ‘missing links’ in the story of human history and evolution may lie in south Trinidad are in danger of disappearing by negative development actions, she said. Rampersad has been piecing together the comparative pre-and post-colonial heritage of T&T in the context of the Caribbean, South America and its global connections. 
She is also the T&T representative on the Unesco Executive Board in Paris and chair of the National Commission for Unesco. An independent multimedia journalist, Rampersad is also a Unesco/Commonwealth/Caribbean trained heritage educator, and member of the scientific committee of the International Culture University and the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism. 
Rampersad has written an impassioned letter in her blog Demokrissy ( to Carmona and Persad-Bissessar to safeguard these valuable heritage elements in their home districts of south Trinidad, which she calls “The Other Magnificent Seven”—of south Trinidad/South America/GlobalSouth and the globe. 
She said these efforts must be part of and contribute to a holistic approach to reviewing and revising misrepresentations of the islands in national symbols as the Coat of Arms and the National Anthem. The open letter calls on the President and Prime Minister ‘to lead’ in safeguarding the endangered and neglected heritage including these valuable assets which she claims have outstanding universal value. 
The blog which is receiving the thumbs up across her extensive social media network, has inspired a petition to Carmona and Persad-Bissessar ( calling on them to act now, before all is lost. 
Banwari site and other Magnificent Seven of the South
Rampersad, who is the author of the first book on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Through the Political Glass Ceiling, that maps the PM’s journey from rural Trinidad to Prime Ministership from speeches, said the letter was inspired by her own impulse to act because it was the responsibility of citizens to motivate and encourage public officials to act in the best interests of the country.
She said, “While a responsible citizenry has a duty to hold officials to account, we also must take responsibility for our actions that impact how authorities may react or act. 
“There has been an increasingly hyped national environment that makes it almost impossible to recognise what is empty noise and what may be constructive criticism. “It is on us to find the tone to make the authorities listen. I hope my blog achieved that.” 
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian on her way to the biannual Unesco Board meeting in Paris, Rampersad said unplanned and unchecked development actions can cost us valuable evidence contained not just around the Banwari site—the 7,000-year-old humanoid skeleton discovered in 1968—but of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ elements that span across the entire peninsula for southeast to southwest Trinidad. 
Much focus on PoS and city heritage
She said there had been much focus on Port-of-Spain and the city heritage that included the seven European-styled buildings in disrepair, but the fundamental and valuable heritage of global scale importance have been overlooked as part of general neglect in development planning for the South. 
“Maybe that has been a good thing and it has allowed these assets to remain undisturbed, but development focus in this district now means we have awakened a sleeping giant, and we must pause, take actions to secure and safeguard, document and explore what really we are sitting on before we allow what may be another course of development.” 
She said focus on heritage had contributed to enhancing national revenue, employment and substantially diversifying economies of many countries which is why so many hanker after being admitted to the Unesco World Heritage lists or any of the recognition Unesco offers on the global value of tangible and intangible heritage. 
“But there are steps to be taken which we have not been entertaining,” she said, claiming her research included interviews and examination of oral and literary culture, maps, comparative charts and other evidence from across more than 50 countries. Rampersad said, “The traditional confrontational stance between development and conservation has resulted in a kind of public fear and deafness. 
“One such I have encountered, apart from a general apathy and indifference to act, is the erroneous belief that the operations of the oil sector or Lake Asphalt may be negatively affected. “This is very far from the truth as the model I am developing has a central place for the oil sector and other industrial heritage.”
Win-win model
She said that there was an absolute win-win model that had been workshopped at various regional Unesco and other forums and to senior officials of the World Heritage Centre, all of whom had urged and were eager to see us step forward. Rampersad said that will be quite a breakthrough for many other societies also trying to strike the balance between meeting the needs of growing populations while conserving for the future. 
“I have many examples of our working successfully with governments, industry and communities to find the perfect fit between what has traditionally been seen as competing actions. “As a small island, T&T with its wealth of human, natural and industrial financial, intellectual and other resources is ideally positioned to impact on and make a difference on the world’s drive for sustainable development.” 
Rampersad said that she feared that “the trigger effect of one kind of development to others can now destroy valuable evidence that has not been thoroughly investigated and so unless we move to safeguard them and establish parameters where this can co-exist with development, we stand to lose a legacy that is of value to not just us in the islands, in the region, but also in defining and establishing our pre-and post-colonial connections to the world. 
“We have the resources, financial and human and intellectual to position T&T as a model small island nation that effectively strikes the balance between development and conservation—that was the goal of the recently held United Nations Summit which Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar attended. “So I am asking the President and the Prime Minister to lead us and take the necessary steps to do this.”—reporting by Charles Kong-Soo
• Rampersad’s blog can be accessed at;and the Petition on at Media, Cultural and Literary Consultant, Educator, Producer, Author LiTTscapes

Friday, October 3, 2014

The other Magnificent Seven Open Letter to President Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar

                     What Is wrong with this picture?                              Above:  National Coat of Arms, Trinidad and Tobago

The Deficit of Curious - the Other Magnificent Seven of the Global South
Open Letter to President Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Honourable Leaders, Your Excellency Mr President and Dear Prime Minister,

I again interrupt my writing of Letters To Lizzie - tete-a-tete correspondences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on explosive matters of our common interests, history and destiny based on 500 pieces of accumulated outstanding universally valuable pieces of evidence - to write to Your Excellency, Mr President and your honourable self, Madame Prime Minister, citizen to citizen: me as a citizen and a daughter of South Trinidad and to you also as a son, Mr President, and a daughter, Madame Prime Minister, of South Trinidad; to you both as our First Citizens and simultaneously as respective holders of the highest offices in our land and as our leaders to whom have been entrusted the fragility of - be it burden or boon,  mantle or mission, yoke or instruments of liberation - the hopes and the dreams and the aspirations of our nation. For more contact

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Change through culture

Real sustainability? @un @unesco @krisramp @lolleaves #u40network

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dollar value of freedom

Dear Lizzie
The value of #life, the value of #freedom -what dollar value could be put on that ... trillions? The skewing of our sense of value to dollars and cents based on the value on the labour market is itself demeaning and dimunitive as replicated in the calculations for #reparations. How damaged have become our sense of values and those who lead us to warped space when the real calculations shoe... more in #LettersToLizzie @krisramp @lolleaves

Friday, September 19, 2014

Independence of dependency #WestminsterRules

Dear Lizzie
So you get your wish from the Scots. If only we too had heeded your advice the piper would have been bagpiping a different calypso.... more portends and prophesies in #LettersToLizzie @krisramp @lolleaves
How the Scots voted against #independence

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dear Lizzie and Scotland

Dear Lizzie
I now see how imper-ative it is to finish this treatise, if only so Scotland would learn from the experiment by we colonies with #Independence and #Demokrissy - alas, if we knew then what we know now #DavidCameron could get real fodder.  Still standing barefooted and wondering like your Keatsy countryman if the mile, song, cherry, lead and door et al was, is, or will ever again be, as in ye olde England  ... more sooner than you think coming in #LettersToLizzie

See too Fixing the politics Something is Rotten Part 1 The Emperor's New Tools

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Culturally inappropriate literature

When is literature #CulturallyInappropriate ...we have been inducted and nurtured on culturally irrelevant and culturally inappropriate literature and education through colonisation that still hsndicap our sense of self, values, development and progress...or do they? Does someone living inside an experience have more rights to writing about it than just a visitir? And where does that leave travel literature? Does historical truths have to be fictional truths? more #LettersToLizzie @krisramp @lolleaves

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bridging Worlds: Callaloo - The Melting Pot Trinidad and Tobago

At 15.25 minute to 18.40, I describe the multicultural nature of the cuisine and the representation of diversity, both in the distinctive identity and flavours, but also in borrowing and blending flavours of the cuisine of other ethnicities.

'Callaloo: The Melting Pot' is the story of Indians living in Trinidad and Tobago, a multi-ethnic, multi-racial nation in the Southern Caribbean, which is inhabited by a diverse set of people, marred by a painful history of imperialism, slavery and migration. A riveting mix of assorted cultures, the place upholds a highly globalized, yet indigenous identity that is critical to its growing collaboration with India in various sectors of development. The film explores the socio-cultural vibrancy of Trinidad and Tobago's Indian diaspora and its indispensable contribution to the evolution of the nation and its economy and culture. The film also looks at the growing potential for investment and commerce with India, with which, it is also bound by a myriad cultural influences in art, music, fashion, films and food.

Rio Claro Through the Kristal bowl SIDS 2014 Rural Regeneration and Sustainable Development

As the world gathers to discuss the plight of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) - what some of us have presented to the UNESCO community to be rebranded as Big Ocean Sustainable States (BOSS) - the vulnerability of islands like ours and the fate of near-coastal districts like those in Nariva/Mayaro in Trinidad and Tobago’s south eastern corner come sharply into focus.
Invited to its centenary celebrations to prophesy what may portend for the Rio Claro of 100 years hence, I envision, in what follows, beyond the ‘bush’ (as the district is often described and the tendency to think of development as urbanisation), to the intrinsic value of ‘bush’ and pronounce on the potential realities of its vulnerability as a SIDS and its sustainability as a BOSS, gleaned from my Kristal ball of research on the interconnectivities of the globe and our island, the global island .TT (Dot TT – Global Island):

Rio Claro 2114: Through the Kristal bowl
Knowledge Centre of .TT, the Global Island
Address by Dr Kris Rampersad Independent Media and Cultural Educator and Producer
 and Trinidad and Tobago Representative on the UNESCO Executive Board
 on Perspectives on Sustainable Development - Rio Claro next 100 years,

Friends, Neighbours, Countryfolks.

I’d wondered when I would get a chance to say that last line, altered from one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces of oratory: Friends, neighbours, countryfolks.
Here, in Rio, it rings true: Though I migrated out on graduation from high school to the big city, and as my mother still says in her exaggerated style, I left her house and never came back- Indeed I have been somewhat of a wanderer since, T and T based, but about 250 global districts and more than 50 countries later, here I am, on home soil. Thank you for inviting me back home.
To be honest growing up near this district, Rio was just a place we passed through enroute to the beach at Mayaro or Guayaguayare. The folks may stop to stock up on ice or other liquid supplies while we young ones crammed as sardines into my brother’s Cortina, would peer over the wings of the always-polished silver angel that graced his car bonnet, wondering when they would get the show on the road: After all, the beach was calling.
Sometimes, on the way back, exhausted and ready for bed, ma or pa would remember they had family around, and we would have to put the sleep creeping up on us, on hold.
So in fact, my roots run somewhat deeper here in Rio, than just neighbour status. My mother was from these parts, Navet, until she was whisked away as a child on the death of her mom to live with an uncle and aunt in Fyzabad, returning to New Grant to begin a family with my father, the Sheriff, in her mid-teens, and sixty years later – she is now a young 80 something, here we are.  Some of our folks still live around here.
Ma’s life, indeed, spans much of the past 100, Rio is now celebrating – That thought struck me with the enormity of the task before me of trying to envision Rio 100 years hence. Would she, as a child in Navet, have envisioned anything of what the district has become today? So how can I, begin to approach to do this.
In parenthesis I note here that Rio is celebrating 100 years since the trainline enhanced the population of the district.  The soil on which we are now, holds more than 10,000 year old history and heritage which we need to harness which is where I see its future. These are the kinds of specificities of our history that we need to be conscious of and that we need to correct – including misrepresentations replicated on our National Coat of Arms and National Anthem.
In preparation for this, I did what anyone of the now generation would do: I put out a call on social media – they call it crowdsourcing: ‘Share your thoughts? What would Rio look like in the next 100 years?’ I got plenty ‘likes’ ad thumbs up, but no thoughts save one who advised to consult a politician sitting here today, not at the head table.
Sigh! So much to do to develop critical thinking. I wasn’t looking for ‘likes’ or commendations, but ideas.
So I did the next best thing when faced with such a dilemma. Research. And like everyone of the now generation, I started on the internet. I was thrilled. The Rio Claro/Mayaro Corporation actually had its own website, complete with a waving national flag and pretty pictures. I immediately felt welcomed. But skimming through looking for plans I saw that its vision ended 2013. And then I saw this at the bottom of the municipal's page: LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 2011.
 You have to be a researcher to understand what a kill joy that is. Seems not only the historical but also the contemporary history reflected in the Kristal waters around this district are a little bit murky.
I searched further and found the Rio Claro/Mayaro Development plan. I was already familiar with the Ministry’s national development plans having participated in one of its consultations and made some suggestions which I am yet to see reflected therein. You see, the National Plans identify various growth poles for Trinidad and Tobago, but there is none for this region, even with the enormous potential of what the area contains identified in its regional plans.
 The beach pictures on the Municipal Corporation’s website  triggered thoughts of global warming, sealevel rise and vulnerability of what the so called developed world call small island developing states – SIDS -  but what myself and a couple colleagues from the Pacific/Oceanic region on the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris are now trying to change to Big Ocean Sustainable States: BOSS. But that is harder than trying to change the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution. It means moving 193 countries in the UN system to agree. Pressure!
In addition, I looked at the data and projections on sea level rise from climate change (with its associated erosion, flooding and submergence of land); the potential for earthquakes and other natural vulnerabilities to which we may be subjected. And I drew from my travel/research experiences: Port Royal, Jamaica, sunk by earthquakes of 1692 and 1907 – buried below the sea; nearby in Guyana, parts of what used to be its coastline is now invisible – in the sea; no different than parts of Cedros, here and the Mayaro/Guayaguyare coastline.
It’s a heavy thought. Would Rio even be around in the next 100 years? I couldn’t come here, like a prophet of doom and gloom. I wanted a more positive flavour for my home district.
With this looming sense of hopelessness, in desperation I turned to my Kristal ball. Yes. I have one of those. Every consultant should in times like these, when all other sources fail, one must have something to consult, ent?
My Kristal ball is a little murky itself: dust had accumulated, especially in the spots around Trinidad and Tobago, because it had been a while since I had been called by my islands to look into it and share its prophesy.
My friends call it my fishbowl without fish. My niece has threatened to throw it out. It contains no fish, nor any fluid transparent liquid that transforms into visions of the future. It is really a glass fishbowl with an accumulation of nondescript rocks and pebbles into each of which I have injecteda memory of a place  – of no value or worth to anyone except to myself – they hold for me a memory from the soil of the some 250 districts in more than 50 countries I’ve visited: some to prepare communities like this one to be empowered, resilient communities and face whatever the future may hold.
My Kristal bowl of pebbles of my memories surfaced this memory: from North England, near what is now known as Hogwart’s Castle from the Harry Potter film complete with a princess whose specialty is poisonous herbs! I was invited to speak at the World Summit on Arts and Culture in 2005 and went on a field visit to this place. Keilder Forest: looks so much like Biche forest: art and architecture transformed this region from bush it was considered to be – with the darkest skies in all England, they say: into a carefully managed world attraction close to half a million a year and could have more ifit wasn't controlled. An observatory, to watch the night sky in all its glory and make use of the darkest skies in all England;
The skyscape is viewed through what we would call an obsokey building, but enter it and you’d realise that the artist who designed it meant to change the way you look at the sky, forever. It includes a cycling trail, bits of manmade art scattered around the woods that regenerated what was believed to be a district in decline into a vibrant visitor retreat and a place locals value and enjoy.
Even without the manmade art and architecture, the Biche forest is a natural wonder: the self-growing stone, the vegetation, and something else I’ll share later. I got lost in there once on a hike with Dr Brinsley Samaroo. There was a reason for that, you may be astounded at what I found.
My Kristal ball moved a little further north on the globe: Glasgow, Scotland. In 2007 I participated in a global civil society summit, where I presented what that movement now knows as CivicCalypso: a calypso recounting the value of the civil society movement, and my experience of the New Lanark World Heritage site. Rio’s rural agricultural character could extract something from this example. New Lanark had revolutionised the labour practices for the cotton industry in Europe, and New Lanark recreates that industrial heritage along with the near half a million visitors it attracts annually. It also revitalised interest in the district's wool textiles sector.
You see, organisations like UNESCO, in its sustainable development thrust is friendly to how industry changes the world. For the last three years I have met with enthusiastic nods mixed with mounting rumblings every time I speak about World Heritage status for Trinidad and Tobago – with murmured fears that such moves would negatively affect the oil industry. So far from the truth. In fact, the nomination I have presented of an ecosystem of Trinidad and Tobago’s natural, cultural and industrial heritage that incorporates the collective values of several of our elements into an unparalleled global continuum and to which Rio and its surrounding district is pivotal, has already won widespread support in the international community. It is now for us to move our officials to action.
My Kristal ball is now moving away from Europe which you might say is rich and developed to an island, like ours: Bali, Indonesia. The year is 2011 so clearly this Kristal fishbowl with rocks not fish has no sense of chronology. I am participating as an Independent member of the consultative body of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage and your Member of Parliament, and now Minister of Community Development who was then the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism is representing Trinidad and Tobago and I am sure he has much to share of that experience.
Everywhere one turns, it seems, talent and art coming out of stone, literally too. I only last week heard the current Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism describe Trinidad and Tobago in those words “talent growing from the pavements.” Bali lives it: in one example, a UNESCO programme on strengthening its intangible cultural heritage has helped transformed its batik cottage industry into a multimillion dollar international trade, providing employment for what is considered the world’s most populous country, with a satellite of spinoff industries in tourism, agriculture, all tied into attractive interwoven natural, tangible and intangible heritage industries.   
There are countless other downstream spin offs too: as each of these draw crowds of tourists who throng to Bali for its sun, sand, sea, and Bali has another “S” – not the one that you may be thinking of, but for its spirituality that has gained added impetus from the book and movie Eat Pray Love. All heritage tourism which it combines into arts and crafts tourism – because people curious about how things are done, and agricultural tourism, and its natural eco tourism, flocking to the ornate terraced rice fields and the range of what is sold as ‘attractions’ but is really the everyday life of the average citizen. That’s what heritage is about: being what you are can be an attractive commodity – and we all know that apart from how we does walk, talk and cook, we does make good company.
Even without the terracing, the site of rice fields is beautiful, with the sun reflecting off them. Some of us here have planted rice at one time, right? It seems like drudgery that work, but when you add appreciation and wonder to any task it becomes noble – ask anyone in Bali.
In connecting the dots of my research, I also went to the neighbouring island, home of Java Man, one of the earliest humanoid known so I could draw the connecting dots to our own best kept secret on the site next door to here where Banwari was found. This is the site. I took time to get there from Bali, is also a World Heritage site, really a wilderness but endowed with value that we need to start developing for our own.
And incidentally, I met no one, not a single person in Bali who had dreams of leaving the island. That’s what connection to self, through heritage, supported by a state system, can do. That’s what we mean when we talk about building resilient communities.
That’s what we do, as we have done, my Kristal ball is changing coordinates to closer home now:
Brasilia, most recently. There to devise plans for World Heritage for the next decade, earlier this year in May – alas, just before the World Cup: someone clearly got their timing wrong. But it was opportune to be in this city before it was overrun by football fans.  
In the 1960s, a rare, you might say, visionary politician, decided to listen to a prophesy of a century earlier – for true – and move the capital of Brazil from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, lock, stock and barrel as we say. He must have been an extraordinary politician because he didn’t mind people dreaming bigger than him. In fact, he got someone to dream up a design for the city and an architect to fill it with some of the most astounding buildings I have ever seen: and that’s what the Brazilian capital looks like: Awesome and awe-inspiring from every angle, and carefully managed with laws that protect the city from overpopulation that is now threatening. So it’s not about just putting up buildings, but having the back up resources, infrastructure, legislation and policy to maintain and protect them and I can present on how this city has done this, as well as several others we have worked/are working with including those in the Caribbean: Cuba, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Curacao etc.
At the back of my mind, this picture of doom still lurks. Who’s to say that with the flooding in Port of Spain, as the sea reclaims with was taken from it – how many of you know Port of Spain is built on land reclaimed from the sea - Well, with sea level rise, the perpetuation of flooding etc, it is not difficult to imagine that there might soon be a need to find a new capital. (I described this in my most recent book LiTTscapes, published as a commemorative book for the 50th anniversary of Independence: One of our Trini writers, Arthur De Lima in a book called The Great Quake envisioned the city destroyed by an earthquake and we all having to return to rurality. Remember I mentioned Port Royal in Jamaica, now below the sea and which we are preparing for World Heritage status. Who knows, Rio Claro could envision itself as the future capital, with its own portals to the sea, as Brasilia, built in the 1960s, with such breath and vision, and is considered the world’s most modern city, and since inscribed as such and as a World Heritage city: so UNESCO not only looking for old ruins, you see. The vibrancy of our own lives make several of our districts candidates and in the continuum I am preparing, unparalleled.
I thought that would be enough by way of comparison to now lay out my vision for this district for the next 100 years, but my Kristal bowl was on a roll…remember I have about 250 districts in it from more than 50 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas; we’ve only drifted through four.
It hurriedly turned to Peru. In 2013 to work with others in the region to help develop the Latin American and Caribbean regional blueprint for intangible cultural heritage in Cuzco, the centre of  the 12th century Inca civilisation, headquarters in breathtaking (literally, high up above the sea) MachuPichu – a world heritage site with Cuzco itself being a centre of intangible cultural heritage. They say the Inca empire lasted just about 100 years – by the way – perhaps an historical inaccuracy, but a lot can happen in a 100 years you see. The Inca empire extended in its heyday all the way through to Argentina, and not just in its remarkable feats of building at high altitudes, and an astounding road networks, but it has also left a legacy of an ability to feed itself through time tried agricultural practices of hydrology and fertilisation. Peru’s boast even today is its self sufficiency in food and I note that’s one of the dreams in the development plans for this district is self-sufficiency in food. Virtually all of Peru’s basic food needs are met from home grown food. Its import bill comprises only nonessential luxuries and it is justifiably called the cuisine capital of the Americas, with some of the most startling flavours for the taste buds I have ever experienced. I know, having returned a few pounds heavier, and I am not talking about my luggage.
The Kristal ball, in its now self-driven frenzy landed next, on Peru’s neighbour and ours, on Belize. Over the last couple years I have been developing and conducted heritage training for the range of stakeholders from policy and decision makers to communities and knowledge holders and practitioners in many fields, not just culture, and developing what is now becoming something of a blueprint for such training in the Caribbean which we have replicated in Jamaica, Grenada, St Kitts, Guyana. So we worked with talented people in agriculture, in traditional knowledge and medicine, in arts, craft, culture, and policy makers and tourism officials and educators and archaeologists and museum specialists and researchers to pull their vision together for sustainable heritage and tourism development – from things like new textbooks and educational materials for schools to teach local Garifuna language; or identifying gaps in the macro infrastructure: like trade mechanisms etc. Belize, one of our Caribbean/Commonwealth neighbours has an astounding Mayan heritage, you know. We walked through the seven hour process of making pastelles – we think that’s from the Spanish, but it’s Mayan, or maybe earlier -  I may not have time to explain those elements of my research in detail here.
Belize was part of the Mayan Empire that dominated the region from about 3000 BC. You would never look at bush the same way again, because buried under and disguised as mountains and forests are thousands of Mayan constructions – they estimate about 2,500, and there are living Mayan communities, as there are Incas too – the colonials didn’t kill them all out as our history books tell us, you know, though they took much else from them; but they exist and in thriving numbers similar stories from Guyana, Suriname our neighbours, Dominica. Hence the need to inject our history books with all this new knowledge that is surfacing and which I have been trying to gather in my research and travels and interviews across the region of local communities, some which few people can reach.
Now suddenly, my Kristal ball, is not murky anymore and the clouds have cleared and I realise what it has been trying to tell me to say about Rio Claro in the next 100 years; and that, even if we are all washed away by sea level rise or taken down by an earthquake, and may not be around, at least not in the glory of the ancient Mayans and Incas but as lesser mortals if a natural disaster strikes - let the powers forbide - an earthquake shatters all these nice plans we have for sustainability and take away our oil rigs and city skyscrapers, and highways and all those things we hold so dearly as markers of our development. If the sea rose up again as it does in   for more email:, see @lolleaves @krisramp #Demokrissy #LeavesOfLife #CaribbeanLiterarySalon

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Simple math for value in leading for literacy and numeracy Speech to UNESCO National Commission launch

Remarks at Leading for Literacy and Numeracy phase 2 launch by Dr Kris Rampersad   
 Chair of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO,
Trinidad and Tobago Representative on UNESCO Executive Board

A recent IDB report that notes the sad fact ‘that too many Caribbean students finish primary school without acquiring levels of literacy and numeracy sufficient to equip them to succeed in secondary school or in an employment market that is increasingly complex and competitive.”
We who are inside the system have known that for a long time and that no country—not even one rich in natural resources, as that report notes —can flourish without a population so educated.
That report also notes UNESCO’s definition of literacy as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute, and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. UNESCO recognises that literacy is both a right in itself and an instrument for achieving other rights and that it is impossible to separate the right to literacy from the right to education.
That IDB report on literacy and numeracy in the Caribbean takes its definition of numeracy from the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers: that to be numerate is to use mathematics effectively to meet the demands of life at home, in paid work, and for participation in community and civic life. Numeracy is to mathematics as literacy is to language. It states:
From these definitions emerge a picture of literacy and numeracy as the fundamentals of education and a means for social and human development. Such definitions are contextual and influenced by the practical necessities of life. In the area of literacy, for example, terms such as functional literacy, cultural literacy, quantitative literacy, and computer literacy, among others, have emerged in recent years, a direct result of attempts to articulate the higher demands of literacy imposed by contemporary society. Similarly, what sufficed for numeracy 20 years ago cannot be adequate today. The common calculator now includes keys for functions that were previously only understood by scientists and engineers. (IDB Regional Policy Dialogue on  Education: Literacy and Numeracy in  the Caribbean  Report )
When the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission of UNESCO met to consider this project, following the mandate of the Commission’s President, the Minister of Education,  Dr Tim Gopeesingh, in our general discussions there were numerous examples from commissioners about the various challenges they faced in learning mathematics – ‘math anxiety’ among them, which could itself fill a story book.
I had my story, too, about learning to read and learning mathematics.
As a child I read everything I lay my eyes on. Everything, no exaggeration. Reading materials were limited in the country districts, you know. My reading materials came from signboards passing by on a drive, to labels on cans, and of course books whether they were mine or of others, whether they were text book, story books, newspapers. One of my earliest memories as a preteen is jumping up and down in frustration for want of reading matter as I had read everything on the bookshelf which largely contained text books from agriscience, science to social studies etc of my elder siblings.  The nearest library was miles away in the nearest town and inaccessible until I started high school.
My story of mathematics is a different one. I could calculate almost any sum or measurements in my head – my father who was a part time market vendor loved taking me to the market because I calculated costs of his whole sale and retail goods and the special discounts he wanted to offer to special customers instantly in my head. Calculations of weights and measurements, distances, and the like in my head came easily.
And yet I struggled with text book maths and for exams it took extra effort to make the grades.
I - what we call crammed - for my O-Level mathematics exam with an intense focus in the few weeks before the exam. I gritted my teeth on the deadline crunch and made out a lesson plan of the different modules and mapped out a path to learning each and the formulas associated with them. That meant, actually having to write out in words, and create a story around each formula and their connected components - for real. I turned my maths text into a story book: and that’s how those remote and alien formulas jumped to life, and made sense to me so I would remember them in an exam room.
Mathematical formulas were not the English language, like my story books, so I needed to dedicate special time with lots of coffee at exam crunch to interpret formulas into the language that I knew. I came to that understanding that I needed to understand mathematics in the context of some correlation to reading. If I hadn’t, I could have easily fallen through the cracks too, because text book teaching did not provide that approach I needed, and which perhaps can also account for many of our so called failure at maths - that students’ approaches to learning mathematics, as with learning language can vary, so teaching methods and tools must incorporate the kind of variety we are trying to include in the teaching of literacy.
The problems and challenges we have uncovered in the pilot leading for literacy programme may be very applicable and relevant and similar to what is needed for numeracy.
My story of learning is just one such story and I’m sure is like one which as educators you might have heard several times over.
As we embark on this, the second part of the National Commission for UNESCO Leading for Literacy – and now Leading for Numeracy project
I have a few things I want to lay on the table for your consideration:
1.     That this project offers an ideal opportunity to explore the possible points of intersection between the challenges we face in teaching language, the English language included – which we erroneously consider our first language, but which educators are now discovering need to be taught as a foreign language and teaching the language of mathematics, which may also be considered a foreign language: that can help bring text book learning closer home to the applied, oral traditions approach that is more natural to our people.
My analogy of the need for literacy in numeracy is just a component of that general right to literacy recognised by UNESCO which precedes the right to information: about a decade ago some of us in the civil society movement fought to have that right to information recognised as a basic human right across the Commonwealth and UN systems.
All of these rights now converge in the computerized age in which we function: HTML/Computer language is an amalgam of competencies in numeracy, literacy and everything in between and has brought startlingly home to us the need for unification of the humanities and the sciences – the former represented in literacy – the latter in numeracy: a separation that has for long been perpetuated by our school system, in the creation of subject grouping that separate those in the arts from those in the sciences and which still persist in terms of the awards and scholarship systems.
O we must consider the areas of convergence in the teaching of literacy and numeracy: as not to be treated as separate competencies, but intertwined – and in treating here both numeracy and literacy together, we have in this room the beginnings of the formula to do so.

So now I want to leave with you a little bit of homework: some numerical calculations that came to me in reviewing the distance travelled with the leading for Literacy pilot exercise still in progress: 40 principals and 80 teachers trained in literacy and numeracy; and class loads of infant 1s and 2s receiving their badges ‘I am learning to read’ and their parents engaged also in the parenting for literacy initiative.
Some of the feedback from our trained educator leaders were: Students have been making great progress with Letter Recognition and Sounds of Letters. There are a few struggling along, mostly the ones who never attended preschool. They are still adjusting to school. Learning is taking place, some who were answering in one word sentences are now describing what is happening in pictures. Oral Language has improved. Students are enjoying the singing, actions and dancing …
The teacher did a concept lesson on the letter m. The objectives of the lesson were achieved. The children were able to give the sound of the letter m with the motion and gave words that begin with that letter sound. They were also able to identify pictures and words with that letter sound as their evaluation. The children were also able to trace and write the letter. The teacher also integrated maths in the lesson using the thematic approach. As a follow up,  the teacher was advised to build a wordwall with pictures and matching words of the letter m.  Another follow up will be using m words in sentence strips for reading.
The students are visibly having fun as they learn! Their laughter and sometimes giggles must make one smile.
Even those with whom we could not have gotten through last year are showing some progress. Unfortunately their progress is a bit slower than the younger children. All however are saying the sounds, doing the actions and completing the written assignments.
The teachers also continue to add resources to develop their model classrooms.
The teachers know what they are doing and are given autonomy in their classes since they also have had to struggle with slow learners, Curriculum Rewrite training and a multitude of other challenges.
But as I always tell them, challenges make us stronger and better!

There are challenges too. Another comment from among those trained:
We have two first year classes with a total of forty-eight students (25 and 23 boys). My teachers are working overtime with the students. The class with twenty-five students seems to be so cramped and the students are restless with the humidity. My heart goes out to these two committed teachers so I visit regularly and have discussions, and offer suggestions of encouragement. In both classes there are five year old students whose developmental levels are not ready for primary school. There are many individual differences within the classes and there are even cases where parents have already given up on their sons. Grandparents are forced to take the role of the biological parents and for various reasons. Some of them are unable to cope with these energetic grandsons. I have, however, taken the names of such parents and have been chatting with them on the phone appealing with them to assist their sons in the observed areas of weakness e.g., hand exercises to develop his motor skills, forming his letters with the hook, proper way to hold a pencil, correct way to hold his exercise book, revising the letter sounds etc. The teachers have even observed bullies within their classes so I have contacted those parents via phone and have asked them to visit for further discussions. Despite the various challenges, my teachers continue to be passionate, working extremely hard, and I am walking the journey with them for we want this experiment to be successful. The school disruptions are regular but we are trying to cope and at the same time encouraging our parents to work with us. With our sale of "milkies and freezies" for the month we have purchased a pack of laminating envelopes to laminate and preserve our letters and pictures, pretty expensive though but we are hoping to reap the benefits of our sacrifice in the future. God bless, hang in their colleagues and we all will be proud of our efforts!
The spin-off benefits are yet to come when these infant ones and twos impact on their parents and peers and siblings and communities.
Another comment:
The year-1 pupils showed the ability to correct their peers if any letter was sounded incorrectly. The Year 1 students were very eager to offer sentences when called upon.
That’s what we at the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO did with around half a million dollars, one quarter from UNESCO and the rest from the Ministry of Education and various sponsors: 40 principals, 80 teachers, loads and loads of infant ones and two and their parents learning to become leaders and readers.
For this, Leading for Literacy and Numeracy for Secondary Schools, the second component of the programme, our budget is just over one million dollars (TT). Your home work is to calculate what may be achieved with this million more; and then further on, what we could achieve with 34 million, or 36 million, for literacy and numeracy; and then with the additional permutations of all these infant one and twos passing on their learnings and their excitement and enthusiasm for reading to siblings, parents and peers in the communities, for not just 2250 boys but several communities and families and the permutations and spin off benefits ofthat.
That’s the multiplication we need to do: from an investment of just about half a million that’s what we got, and that is only in the preliminary stages, and within just about one year – using existing infrastructure, which, I note from your reports, are plagued with numerous problems and challenges of their own. On which note, might I add that it continues to puzzle me – and perhaps those from Chaguanas can help me understand the logic and calculations in this: when does a court house become more important than a library? To my mind, it seems if we had more libraries, we will need less court houses, not so? Isn’t that the simple arithmetic?
As curriculum officers, principals and teachers being taught to lead for literacy, take these learnings and take charge of your communities. That was the challenge I threw out to the first guinea pigs of our project when we launched around this time last year, August 2013. And now I challenge you to, too, take charge! Lead. Return us to the time when the school was the centre of the community and principals and teachers were indeed respected heads and leaders of our society.
With that, I leave you to your homework. Happy learnings, and I look forward to return at the end of this week to witness the results of this exercise then, and beyond,

I thank you.

August 18, 2014
Port of Spain, Trinidad