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More education needed on colonialism

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Britain is obliged under its commitments to the United Nations to educate Bermudians about independence

More often than not, it seems as if people around the world have allowed themselves to believe that colonialism was and remains some fairytale read in a book. You know, the stories in which the handsome prince marries the glowing bride and all in the kingdom live happily ever after.

Well, handsome princes do get to marry the brides of their choices. But the reality is that no one, in royal families or outside them, can be guaranteed to live happily ever after.

For millions of people around the world, colonialism has had quite the opposite effect. There are very few who can say that their countries or lives are better off because of colonialism. Just ask the Aborigines of Australia or the First Nations of North America how colonisation has worked out for them.

The world’s empires in 1945.

After 1945, when the European powers of Holland, Portugal, France and the United Kingdom were forced, in one way or another, to lower their flags from their colonies around the world, they did not leave them in pristine condition.

Quite the opposite, as they had essentially used those colonies primarily as sources of extracting vast wealth. Nor did they actually provide educational development for the masses.

Countries such as Angola, India, Kenya, Indonesia and Mali, to name a few, were left with little or no proper infrastructure such as adequate numbers of hospitals, proper roadways, telecommunications, electrical grids and education opportunities for their citizens. You know, all the nice stuff that developed countries had built for their “mother countries” with the monies generated from those very same colonies.

Hence the popular use of the comparative terms “first world” countries versus “third world” countries.

The newly independent governments were then in a predicament that they had to find financing in order to provide basic necessities such as schools, hospitals and jobs for their populations. For the most part, those countries such as India and Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, were major agricultural economies. In the case of many African countries, they had vast amounts of natural resources such as oil, gold and diamonds. Materials that were still controlled by European corporations.

India alone was the source of more than $45 trillion for Britain, according to one study, although this is disputed by other academics.

Closer to home, up until the late 1950s, the Virgin Islands did not have island-wide electricity. During the same time period, opportunities for schooling were limited for young peopléin islands such as Antigua, Trinidad, Sint Maarten and Guadeloupe. Just ask the people of Puerto Rico if they were treated as equals after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Here in Bermuda, primary schooling was limited for the majority of black students. More than 1,000 students had to attend Central School, now known as Victor Scott, sharing desks and chairs.

All this wilful neglect against a backdrop of European nations and their elite growing untold wealth for centuries. Take a look at any given world map and it is clear to see that colonialism benefited the few while destroying the many. Indeed it was no fairytale existence.

Now, as we begin to have the conversations about self determination, let us be reminded that the nations of Holland, France, Britain and the United States are bound by international obligations to educate their citizens about "self-government".

The United Nations’ Article 73(b) states the following: "to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement …"

Has the United Kingdom ever taken up the mantle to educate the citizens of their remaining 14 colonies about Article 73?

If not, why not?

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Published December 09, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated December 08, 2022 at 3:41 pm)

More education needed on colonialism

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