The Caribbean Sea,
the obvious resource on which to plan Caribbean development, was largely
overlooked in the planning of development.
S. L. Jarrett*
It is not possible to fully
grasp the significance of the establishment of a Caribbean Maritime
Institute without reflecting on the historical process that ends and
begins with this single occasion.
of our geographical region is all about the Caribbean Sea. Those who
crossed it using oar and sail, before and after Columbus.
Columbus cleared the way
for the settlers. Their mission, stated or unstated, was to secure the
interests of their governments and monarchs. By establishing the
organizations, instruments and systems of colonialism, they effectively
created new states – in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia -- in the likeness
of and subservient to the so called ‘mother country’, the patron
states of Europe.
Church and state were in
consensus about the need to educate and train the colonized, if conquest
was to be consolidated and development attempted. Basic schools were
established, mainly by the churches. The colonial government provided
mainly primary education and some secondary education. Caribbean children,
products of plantation economy, were trained only to keep that economic
system properly functioning.
Up to the middle of the
19th Century, despite the continued growth and prosperity of Caribbean
plantation economy (the costly slave labour element having been removed)
and the evolution of an increasingly complex social order, there was
little other than primary education provided in the colonies. The sons of
the planters and representatives of the colonial governments went back to
Europe for higher education. Formal vocational training for the people of
the Caribbean was still almost a century away. And, even then, this was
vocational training at a rudimentary level, addressing only the needs of
It was not until after
Caribbean minds were opened, largely by the experiences and lessons
afforded by fighting for and then living in the ‘mother country’
during the two major 20th century European conflicts and
particularly the latter, that Caribbean education infrastructure expanded.
Elected leaders advocated and sanctioned the establishment of secondary
and technical high schools, vocational training institutions and
universities, in initiatives which lasted right up to the end of the
millennium with the establishment of universities, sports colleges and
academies in different territories.
Interestingly, in the
critical area of shipping and maritime trade, perhaps the only aspect of
wider Caribbean economy development that has never recorded anything but
annual growth, there was no institute to train and produce skills. The
Caribbean Sea, the obvious resource on which to plan Caribbean
development, was largely overlooked in the planning of development.
An institution for training
Caribbean seamen is important for the development of the Region. The fact
that such a Caribbean mariners training institution was not established in
the post World War II era when another great Caribbean institution of
learning was founded, is perhaps more the evidence of a lack of vision
rather than a statement about the relevance of such an Institution.
The Caribbean Maritime
Institute has a historical mission quite unlike and far more complex than
that of the organization from which it sprang. For whereas the Jamaica
Maritime Institute had clearly defined national objectives, the Caribbean
Maritime Institute, in the context of Caribbean political and economic
history, has obligations to peoples from different cultures, from four
language groups, in dozens of island states and territories; stepping
stones linking the farthest shores of a geographically significant body of
The title Caribbean
Maritime Institute carries an awesome responsibility. To be sure, merely
adopting the word Caribbean, does not make an institution a regional one.
However, it does state an intention to serve the Region. This is the
mantle of service the Caribbean Maritime Institute has assumed.
indeed development, is not about Gross Domestic Product; nor about
predetermined social and economic indicators. It is about empowering
people so that they may function as free citizens, capable of achieving
their goals and aspirations. Education and training provide opportunities
for our people. So, if the Caribbean Sea is important to Caribbean
economic development, then so is the Caribbean Maritime Institute.
* Mike Jarrett, CSA Director of
Information and Public Relations, comments against the background of the Jamaica Maritime Institute becoming the Caribbean Maritime Institute in September 2001.