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HomeEducation / CultureM.V. Logos hope to St Lucia

M.V. Logos hope to St Lucia

CASTRIES, St Lucia – Prime minister of Saint Lucia, Philip Pierre on Tuesday, August 10, welcomed the Crew and Mission of the M.V. Logos Hope to Saint Lucia, the Helen of the West, delivered the following address:

That name, “Helen of the West” was coined in colonial times to describe the stunning beauty of our island and the fact that she was fought over by European powers, the French and English, changing hands many times over their geopolitical chess game of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

“Helen of the West” is a reference inspired by the famously beautiful Helen of Troy, a story captured in the Greek Poet Homer’s 8 th Century BC epic poem, the Iliad. Stories like that of Homer’s have been passed down for thousands of years, through spoken word – oral traditions. However, the ability to write them down, record them, and place them into books forever changed the world. It is through them that we share our stories that are millennia old, and share new stories that will define the world to come. Knowledge lost often sets back entire civilisations hundreds or thousands of years, into Dark Ages.

The absence of knowledge, and knowledge systems can keep back generations. It can keep people poor. It can keep people oppressed. Marginalised. Without hope. Sadly, sometimes, the actions of knowledge suppression are deliberate.

Our emancipation story

We in the Caribbean, where Logos Hope is spending the summer, just celebrated Emancipation Day. It is celebrated every year on August 1st, a few days after you berthed here at Castries. In 1838, people who were forcibly brought to the Caribbean from Africa, and their descendants were given their freedom. Freedom from physical bondage. We are sometimes upset about a few days in quarantine. Our forefathers were subjected to perpetual, punishing, cruel quarantine on the plantation. However, even after Emancipation, the West Indian people were largely left to toil the same plantations and living under the same depressed state, under colonial rule for another 100 years. Saint Lucia was a particularly special case.

Our colonial pendulum swinging back and forth between English control and French control meant that we were finally left under British rule with a French-influenced Kwéyòl-speaking people. According to records, a little over 100 years ago, 60 percent of all Saint Lucians spoke absolutely no English! In 1911, about a quarter of the population was literate. By 1946, Saint Lucia still had the highest rate of illiteracy in the Caribbean with 45 percent of our people unable to read or write. Compare that with neighbouring Barbados at the time where 93 percent of population was literate. Our emancipation story has been an arduous one, but we have overcome.

Our own stories

Amazingly, Saint Lucia, a country once considered a colonial backwater in the Caribbean, despite all this mental enslavement, has been able to achieve greatness at the highest levels of human intellectual endeavour. We have produced two Nobel Prize Winners, William Arthur Lewis in Economic Sciences in 1979, and Derek Walcott in Literature in 1992. These men have gone on to write the books that have influenced and inspired many countries and millions of people.

Arthur Lewis gave birth to the field of Development Economics, which spurred economic development in many countries of the previously known “Third World.” He challenged the oppression of the 1930s, suggesting that the Caribbean could develop out of poverty through his work Industrialisation of the British West Indies. Sir Arthur Lewis remains to this day the only black man to have won the Nobel Prize in the Sciences.

Sir Derek Walcott gave rise to plays and poems inspired by the Caribbean scenes and characters. He raised to through written word, fishermen by the bay in Gros Islet to Homeric stature in his Award-winning classic, Omeros. He brought to life settings such as the constituency which I represent, Castries East, into plays such as Dream on Monkey Mountain.

Like these great men, we are committed to writing our own stories and build our own compendium of knowledge which we can share with the world. And so, as you have come to us to share some of the stories and knowledge of the world, we too welcome you to enjoy our stories as well, whether written or through face-to-face interactions with our people.

Not money, but knowledge

One of the famous quotes of Sir Arthur Lewis, which is etched on his tombstone on the Morne overlooking Castries, at the Community College named in his honour, “the fundamental cure to poverty is not money but knowledge.” Since Independence in 1979, we have made significant strides at expanding education and learning opportunities.

I was part of a government that achieved Universal Secondary Education fifteen years ago and alongside telecommunications liberalisation, we expanded access to the internet. Our mobile penetration rate is over 100 percent and Saint Lucians have become some of the most digitally literate people in the Caribbean.

I was sworn in as prime minister just about two weeks ago, after our 18 general elections since adult suffrage 70 years ago. There is no doubt that we have come a long way.

However, knowledge is not finite and we certainly have much further to go to become a knowledge-driven society and economy. Some of the stated education goals of my new administration include removing exam and facilities fees to make education more accessible to all; expanding the application of ICT in Education, including the provision of laptop devices to all students; and achieving an average of one university graduate per Saint Lucian household. Education is the single most important driver of wealth creation and social peace and my Government will prioritise its transformation. On the corollary, this rise in internet-driven global knowledge systems has had severe consequences on the principal medium that has existed for hundreds of years – the printed copy, the book.

In Saint Lucia, we have witnessed the collapse of most traditional local book stores. Another telling reality is that we currently have just one local newspaper in-print on island, when there was once five. And of course, digital media has meant that people are more often going to videos to obtain knowledge instead of picking up a book or even reading an e-book. We cannot allow for books to become passé. It is for this reason that Logos is truly bringing hope to Small Island Developing States like Saint Lucia.

And you have joined us at an opportune time when children are on vacation and should be encouraged to spend some of their free time reading a book. I also know that the Logos is more than just a Book Store. It is about bringing the Word Alive by Good Deeds as well. We welcome your acts of charity and we hope you enjoy our country and its hospitality. While Logos has been operating for many decades now, and many Saint Lucians are always keen to visit, this year is of course very different from the many gone by, due to the pandemic.

We thank you for complying with our COVID-19 protocols and requirements, especially at this time; and of course, I must urge all persons who are to visit the ship to do comply with all the protocols.

Our friendship will endure

Ladies and gentlemen, it is said that Helen of Troy was the face that set sail a thousand ships. In Helen’s time, those were ships of war. We in the Helen of the West, are happy that Logos has set sail to our shores many, many times, not as a ship of war, but as a ship of hope, a ship of peace, a ship of knowledge and enlightenment.

Source: Office of the Prime Minister

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