A backward step

Please permit me to say briefly that I am an Educator with a track record of 100% success working with my daughters, and children (of other families) including some who were written off by the education system as hopeless. Accordingly, I speak with grand authority on education.

For the last couple weeks I’ve strongly resisted writing on the performance of the ruling NNP administration particularly as it relates to education; however, their education policies amount to such a vexation of the spirit to the extent that my pen has sprung a leak almost out of control way beyond midnight.

The nation was not too surprised when the ruling administration, moving backwards to the era of tribalism and begging for essential school supplies, acted on their manifesto promise to put an end to the universal/free school books program initiated by the former administration.

It is no secret that many families who are perceived not to be needy have in fact made huge sacrifices, not only because of the adverse student-teacher ratio of our public schools, to send their children to the private schools – in some cases having factored in the universal school books program.

Considering, for example, that every Grenadian family including the more financial affluent ones has the greater right to send their children to public school (at the expense of the state to the tune of tens of millions of dollars); logically the decision of the ruling administration is grossly flawed to deny these families the lesser right to the universal school books program particularly after their relieving the state significantly, through their great sacrifices in many cases, of the financial burden to build schools and pay teachers to educate the private school population.

In other words children whose families significantly relieve the burden on the state by their sacrifice to opt for private schools have at least the same right to the universal school books program – whether or not they chose to participate in it – as any other child.

It was also very shameful to hear the Minister for Education griping on national TV about students in secondary school who cannot read and write properly. The people gave them a mandate to act – not to gripe.

The proper thing for the Minister to have done was to inform the nation on what measures he has put in place e.g. to strategically group all such children in two or three secondary schools, depending on where they live, and to assign gifted and talented educators, including specialists in numeracy and literacy, to work with them at the secondary school level including on weekends, holidays and vacation (including this summer vacation for the forty one) to get them up to par within one year.

Additionally, the decision of the present governing administration to effectively end or put on hold universal secondary education and essentially somersault to the past Common Entrance era is both oppressive and amounts to a violation of the legal rights of the forty one affected students, the vast majority or over three fourths of whom are boys, who fell victims at the hand of an incompetent or “square plug in round hole” Minister of Education who has failed to put adequate measures in place at the secondary school to deal with the highly foreseeable issues associated with the advent of universal secondary education.

These forty one students, like any others, were promised and reasonably held great expectation to enter secondary school in September 2013; therefore the decision or action of the Minister of Education represents both a huge psychological as well as a financial blow or detriment to each of these children whose probably mostly single parents now have to fork out the extra funds in these hard economic times to maintain them for at least one additional year in their respective primary schools where, naturally, it will be most difficult if not impossible to administer any remedial program to them.

The worst thing anyone can do to a child, like the Minister for Education, is to fail to educate him or her properly or to inflict/impose devastating and disabling lifetime psychological blows/hurdles on them, for example, by labeling and marketing them as total failures who can’t even pass a non-exam or assessment!

Frankly, in one’s academic life it’s hard to imagine any experience worse than this. The parents of these children are therefore well advised, in the best interest of their children’s education and welfare, to band themselves together to fight for their children.

The parents should also be prepared if necessary to take the Minister of Education to Court to reverse or nullify the decision to deny their children their right to enter secondary school in September 2013.

Abdurraheem A Jones

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