Despite all the political rhetoric to the contrary the public school system, under successive FNM Administrations, has been a dismal failure. An impartial and up-close examination of this administration’s oversight of the public Education System, or the lack thereof, between 1992-2002 and again from May 2007 to date, would reveal an unbelievable lack of appreciation for, and a very callous approach to, what should have been done and what needs to be done presently, to ensure that by the time each child meanders through the system and graduates from primary; from junior high and then from high schools, they would have obtained a good grounding on all fronts, which would give them the kind of confidence they need to face the outside world. As a matter of fact, during the administrative periods of the FNM governments, the system, at work, would best be described, by any reasonable, non-partial expert, as a “factory for failure” which conditions, I might add in essence, seemed to exist and flourish, for all that time, for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to feed the “life line” of our prison system, given the expansion of the crime rate during this(FNM) administration’s several terms in office.
The FNM is, and has always been in my view, big on buildings and lack luster on results. As a matter of fact the sole defense of their educational achievements, to date, is on the amount of school buildings constructed during their times in office and, of course, bragging rights over the PLP on that score. With them, it’s never about “Academic Excellence.” Academics and the degree of the quality of the same, have both taken “way- back- stage” positions on their list of priorities. Whether these are ignored intentionally, on their part or otherwise, I will reserve my right to say and hesitate to pass judgment at this time. For instance, their decision to build and relocate the new college of the Bahamas’ campus from within the industrial area of the heart of Freeport to beyond Freeport’s bridge, about ten miles outside the environs of the city of Freeport Grand Bahama proper; who made this stupid decision and what was their rationale for doing so, when in fact most of the Institute’s students, especially those who attend in the evenings presently (most of whom are young girls) have no way of getting to and from school except to hike rides, walk or get to and from by whatever means available, to them? Will they be able to hike or walk, at nights no less, if the campus is 10-12 miles away on an almost deserted dangerous highway or does the college intend to implement and maintain its own private, daily, efficient Bus schedule? I seriously doubt it. This move, I submit, will not produce the kind of participation and net the kind of results some of us wish to see. Obviously the FNM government is only concerned about building concrete monuments to itself. We shouldn’t expect very much more though given the fact that the building minister, himself, is as dumb (academically) as a hundred pound bag of concrete bricks. As I said before, the FNM’s only objective in education is to be in a position to brag about the many buildings they construct while on watch; nothing more. Positive results in academics and continual improvements in the system on the ground are not priorities for them. They care very little if the nation’s children are molded and grounded, with a fair degree of the basics by the time they get through the various stages of basic schooling i.e. primary, junior high and high school. I am told that there are no funds left for new furniture for the new campus, even; that the used smelly old furniture from the existing campus will be moved to the new facility. Seems to me that the Bahamian people are more tolerant and are prepared to accept far more chaffing and bad treatment from the FNM government than they have shown to accept when the PLP is in office; why is that? Bad treatment is bad treatment, no matter what quarter it comes from and we should not accept third best from anyone.
Recently they (the government) have taken the decision not to grade and or publish national school averages, suggesting that the averages published to date have never reflected the true picture of where the country was or is, in terms of our actual achievements nationally. I, of course, disagree with this notion, as national averages, in my view do, in fact, give a true picture, on the whole, for how we are doing and what it is that we are achieving if anything. What the minister, and by extension his government, wishes to do by not publicizing the national averages, I submit, is to keep undercover his government’s educational failures. If the whole truth were known, however, the “D” national grade average, recorded and published for last year, would have reflected a far worse position had the results from the private sector schools not been included. We need to bite the bullet, as a country, face the music; expose all our dirty linen and grade only the public schools so that we can really get a true picture of this broken system that we continue to prop up with good tax payer’s money “school year after school year.” It is no secret that I am of the view that the next PLP government should consider a pilot project for a national system of privatized education. Among all the other obvious benefits, (which are not the subject of my writing today) such a system could afford every single Bahamian child, without exception, the same private school, safe atmosphere and environment, and the same quality tutoring. The results would be a whole lot different, I submit. I challenge this government, to grade both the public and private school systems separately the next time around and see if my predictions of a “B” average for the private schools and a big fat “F” for the government school system isn’t realized. We are indeed an “F” rated system-plain and simply-and has been all through the FNM’s years of governance, no question about that; notwithstanding their rhetoric to the contrary.
A huge chunk of the problem, in my view, is that the entire ministry of education-encouraged and supported by FNM bigots-is staffed with a mine field of political cutthroats who spend their entire careers stroking the backs of these lousy FNM politicians; politicians who they feel could help them in their efforts to gain that one little advantage-one little edge- over their more deserving colleagues for the chance to move past them and one more rung up the ladder they call success. For that, these cutthroats are content to spend their entire work lives languishing in those, small, smelly, ill-equipped cubicles they call offices; housed in those old run down, insect-infested, leaky roof buildings, with no air condition, in most cases. They get to hold those undeserved positions, for a while, but they offer nothing new- no new learning techniques; no new ideas-to a system that is broken and beaten down; a system which, sadly, has responsibility for the 60,000 children who ride, run and walk to the various class rooms throughout the country, school year after school year. The kids, (most of them unchallenged and uninterested), mark time, therefore, year after year without ambition until graduation day when they are expelled from the system with a piece of paper which says only that “Joe Billy” was here, he successfully bided his time and has now passed on, leaving a vacant seat for the next unsuspecting sucker/ victim. A total waste of the country’s time and talents and resources, indeed. This, mind you, while the FNM brags about the many buildings they construct, while on their watch, to house these societal miss-fits. It is criminal what they are doing to the nation’s youth, but the FNM don’t give a damn about those wasted minds, so long as they get to show the voters, in the next election campaign, how many more buildings, compared with the PLP, were constructed while they were in office. What the FNM will not tell you, though however, is that while school buildings and classroom spaces may increase under their rule so does, simultaneously, the amount of criminals who they end up assigning to jail cells designed to house far fewer of the miss-fits than are actually housed in them.
School opening this year has happened no differently, apparently, from all the other previous years, under the Free National Movement government. No differently in that press reports, circulating already, indicate that the same old tired unforgivable deficiencies will be the hallmark once again during this school year. Brave Davis, I see, is the first MP to complain about the situation in his constituency of Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador, where teacher shortages and school repairs, or the lack thereof, have taken center stage. School could not open, he said in a press statement, in Cat Island because building repairs only started a week ago and the kids were ordered to remain at home for another week or so; this cannot be right. Can we continue to tolerate such blatant tardiness? Every body in the Bahamas, even tourist, knows when school opens each year; doesn’t the FNM minister know? School building repairs, Davis said, started only the week before the kids were scheduled to be in school and therefore they would have to remain at home until such time as repairs are complete. In addition, he said, they are short eight teachers in Cat Island alone, and two of the three teachers needed at Rum Cay School did not turn up, among other complaints. This is sure shaping up already to be a stormy school year re-opening.
Forrester J Carroll J.P
Freeport, Grand Bahama
4th September 2010