Do Jamaicans really care about our national heroes?

So, another Heroes Day has come and gone, and it is back to normal for both adults and kids. In the blink of an eye all the hoopla was over, but did we stop to remember what the holiday was about or was it just another great reason to not turn up for work? Do we as Jamaicans appreciate the significance of our national heroes? Or is it that the lessons we learnt about the heroes in primary school have no real meaning in our lives?

Jamaica's seven national heroes
Jamaica’s seven national heroes

The question was put to a group of high school students who shared that when they were in primary and preparatory school, they learnt about the six heroes and one heroine. Indeed, most primary schools have their pictures painted in murals along the corridors or at the front of the school as a constant reminder of who they are. However, this does not mean children actually pay attention.

History class

The students who were quizzed felt that while they can identify all the heroes, they only have a brief knowledge of what they did, and at times they tend to mix up their roles in the shaping of this nation. These future leaders said that it would make more sense if they were taught about them in high school in history class instead of learning about world history and far away lands in an abstract way. Instead, they believe they should be educated about people whose contribution had an impact on the country.

Some persons would prefer if children were taught about the national heroes in high school instead of primary school.

Of all the heroes, Marcus Garvey stood out for most, as his militant refrain about black pride and entrepreneurship resonated with some who have dreams of being business leaders and moguls. Some were even able to share a Garvey quote or philosophy. However, knowledge of the other six was woefully lacking.

Informal poll

Adults are not much better. In fact, an informal poll conducted showed that those between the ages of 20 and 45 could identify the pictures, and that was about it. One man even said that Norman Manley was Jamaica’s first Prime Minister, and another stated that Sam Sharpe came from Stony Gut. The facts are muddled, and the general interest was not much better. When it comes to remembering who is on what monetary denomination, few can get it right if they are not looking at the coins and bills in front of them.

For some people, Heroes Weekend is a time to rest.

Relics of the past

Most Jamaicans tend to view our heroes as relics of the past who have little bearing on modern-day Jamaica. While they acknowledge what they did as being important, they see it as having little bearing on what is currently happening in our society. They also believe the present crop of leaders have devalued what the heroes worked and, in some cases, died for, hence there is not much correlation between what was then and what is now.

Patrons party up a storm at Daybreak in St Ann during Heroes Weekend.

Our national heroes, they said, were selfless in their actions. However, what they see now in leadership would probably make them roll over in their graves, hence the disassociation. While they thank them for their sacrifice, National Heroes Day has pretty much become a long holiday weekend where one can have fun in the country or enjoy an extra day to sleep in.

— Written by C.W.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of BUZZ or its employees.