The problem with Education!!!

Despite claims being made by Education Minister, Anthony Boatswain about an agreement being reached on the impasse with the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) on the call to stop all fundraising events for one year, this is not totally true.

THE NEW TODAY was told by the GUT President, Lydon Lewis on Tuesday that the ministry was given an ultimatum to apologise publicly for the press release that was put out informing Parents not to comply with the GBSS request to pay for the school furniture for their students.

Lewis pointed out that there was a tentative agreement reached at a May 31st meeting with GUT and Education officials conditionally agreeing not to go ahead with the threat pending a public apology by the Ministry by Friday as the deadline date.

It is the hope of this newspaper that common sense will prevail and the country can overcome this hurdle and get on with the business of providing a sound education for the nation’s children.

The education of the nation’s children is a much bigger issue than whether or not the proper procedure was followed by the Principal of GBSS on the matter of parents paying for the furniture.

The Ministry of Education would not have been left embarrassed if the schools were properly outfitted with furniture over the years through funds provided by government.

The common cry from teachers over the years is that they often have to engage in many creative ways to provide items like chalk, dusters, Bristol boards, markers, soap and toilet paper, and other basic things that the ministry is expected to supply for the schools.

Many of our teachers will often dip in their already scarce salaries to buy books to do their lesson plans and to assist needy students from time to time with bus fares.

It is our understanding that if the true picture is revealed then our governments will easily become the laughing stock when it comes to assistance from the State for our schools.

A major part of the problem in the Ministry of Education is the lack of leadership given by the current Minister of Education, Anthony Boatswain in the past four to five years.

It is rather unfortunate that Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell kept him in charge of the important Education portfolio for the duration of the NNP term in office.

Perhaps, Dr. Mitchell had no choice given Boatswain’s lacklustre performance as a senior government minister over the years as Minister of Finance.

It is not surprising that given the Prime Minister’s already heavy workload that he still took on Finance and not leave it up to Boatswain given the importance of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to address the bad fiscal situation facing Grenada.

The workers in the Ministry of Education will readily admit that the current minister has been playing the role equivalent to an absentee plantation owner in the days of slavery when the Englishman owned all the lands in the West Indies and used to run the estates from far away England.

If Mr. Boatswain is honest, he will tell the Grenadian people how many times he has held a staff meeting with the public officers in his ministry.

A check made by THE NEW TODAY found out that this particular minister held only one staff engagement and it was three years after he was already on the job after being assigned the portfolio by Prime Minister Mitchell.

It begs the question who is really running the Ministry of Education in the country – Minister Boatswain, Minister of State for Education, Senator Simon Stiell, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, the Chief Education Officer or none of the above?

The government that will be elected after the upcoming general elections will have to seriously address the issue and put at the helm an individual with the drive, competence and know-how to run the Ministry of Education.

Anyone in charge at the ministry will understand that governments over the years have not been providing our schools with most of the tools that are necessary for their operation.

The Roman Catholic Church through some of its social outreach programmes as Food for the Poor have been playing a critical role in providing furniture for many schools across the island.

The church has also been able to provide quite a bit of supplies for the School Feeding programme of many schools.

And the various school principals and teachers need to be recognised, applauded and congratulated for the many fundraising activities undertaken over the years to keep their schools functioning in the face of budgetary constraints from the Central Government.

The correct leadership is needed in the ministry to take far reaching decisions on value for money given the scarce financial resources currently available.

Issues such as school mergers given the limited number of students in some schools, as well as under-staffing and over-staffing in some schools should be addressed by the powers-that-be.

The best plans in Education can come to naught if the driver cannot hold onto the wheel and give proper direction to the process.

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