When talent dies a premature death

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Joyce Auguste

By Cletus Springer

I have been reflecting on Joyce Auguste passing; and I must confess that as this reflection progressed, my sadness has deepened and is slowly giving way to anger.

I am saddened not just because of the way Joyce died. I am saddened not only because Saint Lucia has lost a veritable pillar in its social-cultural development. My sadness … and my anger are driven by my recall of a recurring sentiment in my many chats with Joyce during her post-retirement years. She felt she had so much more to contribute to the development of her beloved Saint Lucia. She was heart-broken, not offered the opportunity to continue that contribution. That’s the Gospel truth.

Granted, that Joyce used her talents in the service of her God; and thankfully, doing so, helped to ease the pain she felt from being shunned by her country. Granted too, that her contribution was recognized through several national honors. But the recognition Joyce craved was that she had more to offer, complemented by the opportunity to so do.

I have felt for some time now that island states like ours (Saint Lucia) desperately need to shift from a preoccupation with GDP growth and embrace instead GHD growth – Gross Human Development. I continue to feel strongly that a focus on the latter will automatically lead to the former.

Put another way, we need to irrevocably embrace a talent-based approach to our development. In that approach, a multi-faceted talent like Joyce Auguste is never seen as having retired. So long as that talent is available, it must be used. Those who are retired should not be treated as being too tired to contribute.

I insist that this pasture/expiration mindset thrives because talent is not — front and centre — of the way we approach our development — because it’s not seen as a cradle-to-grave resource.

I urge our current and future leaders to shift to this approach. From the moment a talent becomes obvious in a child, it should be recorded in a National Talent Database and a career path should be mapped for that child in consultation with his/her parent. Regular analyses of this database will give clear indications to education and planning authorities of the adjustments that should be made to education policy and strategy.

It’s entirely possible that Saint Lucia needs more teachers in music and drama than science and mathematics. But we won’t know for sure because we are bent on a one-size-fits all approach to education. Teachers should be trained to recognize and nurture such talent.

Have you ever wondered whether the folks who cut grass on the roadside have any innate talents?

I recall when I was asked for feedback on the Short Term Employment Program (STEP) back in 1997. I recommended that it should be talent or skills-based and configured as a grand apprenticeship scheme. More on that in another commentary.

I truly believe talent is the key to personal fulfillment and happiness. I believe our Creator has given every one of us, at least one talent. As a country, we should not wait until our children reach prison as adolescents or adults to learn the things they’re naturally good at.

Everything we do as a country should be focused on discovering, nurturing and utilizing the talents of our sons and daughters until their great architect of the universe decides to recall — his/her bosom.

Cletus Springer is leading the execution of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Inter-American Program for Sustainable Development, which provides an integrated framework for the provision of capacity building and technical cooperation to OAS Member States in thematic areas such as Circular Economy/Closed Looped Cycling (CE/CLCP); Ecosystems Management; Integrated Water Resources Management; Sustainable Energy; Disaster Risk Management; and Environmental Law, Policy and Governance. Recently, his Department completed the execution of four CE/CLCP projects, the first such initiatives in the Americas.  

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