The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Dr Ronnie Yearwood
A friend asked me when my column was returning as I took a little break. Our modern work culture can be relentless in making us believe that we do not need time off. But everyone needs to be able to take time off and do so without feeling guilty about not working and I applaud the Prime Minister for setting an example on this.
For me, the life of a new dad and a modern lecturer, where in addition to day-to-day teaching, the mantra is “publish or perish”, along with various administrative and management duties, means that ever so often, a break is welcomed and needed.
I am now back and trying, as others are, to keep our Government accountable, only to be confronted a few days ago by the sometimes and hapless Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw on television and social media. Maybe I should have stayed on mybreak or perhaps it is time the Minister of Education takes a full time one for the sake of the country and our children. But we have a “cuh-dear” culture in Barbados at times towards incompetence.
The Minister of Education in year two of Covid is now trying to formulate a roadmap for children returning to school after the new academic year has started. A big long stupse! If my son was of school age and thankfully for the Minister’s sake he is not, because she would not be getting any “cuh-dear” pass from me as a parent.
At this point with online school in full swing for some, and others clearly disadvantaged because of lack of access to wifi and devices.
Actually, does anyone know if the most at need students received the devices the Minister received from donations while hiring a consultant to receive the donated devices on the Ministry’s behalf, as if the Ministry of Education doesn’t have personnel. Actually, is this a pattern with this Government to hire middle men and women to manage donations from kind hearted Bajans and in the process not deliver results?
Further, didn’t projections not tell us that COVID would have been with us for a while? Where was the direction from the Minister of Education? Will parents, students, parent teachers’ associations, unions start asking basic questions surrounding her ability or will she get a “cuh-dear” while your children do not get the education they need?
It seems the Minister is unable to manage. Our children will be turned into a lost generation and this Minister of Education will surely be rated by many as the most incompetent we have ever seen!
This is after most people thought the previous Minister of Education was the worst. Former Minister Sandiford (now Sir Lloyd), will probably be rated as one of the best and most innovative, especially to be credited for creating the Barbados Community College to extend education to middle class Barbadians who could not or did not want to attend sixth form for classics.
We cannot blame COVID for everything. Sure, at the start, we could accept that the Minister of Education may have been caught off guard, though this seems to be her natural disposition, but we are a few years in and now the Minister wants to talk about online school and the future of education in Barbados. There’s nothing to talk about yet.
Online school isn’t really a viable option until all teachers and students have devices and internet, so no child is left behind. It is that simple really. This hasn’t been done yet!
The Ministry of Education should have worked with the telecom companies to provide low cost or free internet to all of our teachers or the Government should provide a connectivity allowance and interest free loans to set up home work stations to teachers. This is step one in school being online and the Minister of Education hasn’t even figured that out yet! The next step is internet and devices for students.
From where we all stand, education in Barbados is in a pretty bleak stake, with children having not received proper school for almost two years. At this point you are probably asking, so what would I do.
For starters, in my capacity as a citizen and an educator, I designed and collaborated with a charity and a community group to provide free wifi for the community in Haynesville, especially for children, knowing some children do not have internet access at home.
The Government in its infinite wisdom denied the children access to the community building to access the wifi, but then will hold big townhalls about online school.
Hopefully by this week, the lapse of judgement will be corrected, and the children will be able to use the space and access to wifi to continue their classes and education, following COVID protocols to ensure safety.
You do not need big meetings about online education, how about diverting some the resources that schools are using to pay for the internet and other things as we have no school at the moment. Or allowing the fourth and fifth formers to return to school for in person classes with lower forms continuing online for now. Why the one size fits all policy for all students and for all schools. Couldn’t some schools safely accommodate students at six feet and those that can, do so?
The incompetence of the government is also now causing some Welcome Stampers who moved to Barbados with families to leave! Would you stay in a country by choice and watch your child fall behind or would you go back to your country where face to face classes have now resumed?
Does the Prime Minister understand that one of her best and much promoted policies, the Welcome Stamp, is now being undone in some ways by her Ministry of Education?
The Minister of Education this week, was reported in Barbados Today as saying, “It pains me to know children are missing out on education.” I guess it is useful for parents, students and Barbados to know that the Minister is hurting at her own failure. Cuh-dear!
Dr Ronnie Yearwood ([email protected]) is an educator, lawyer and social commentator.