FNM Chairman: “The Minister of Education appears to have lower expectations and concerns for poor students”

FNM Chairman Darron Cash

The Minister of Education appears to have lower expectations and concerns for poor students!

This September represents Jerome Fitzgerald’s second school opening as Minister of Education. Regrettably, the Minister’s performance has gone from bad to worse.

The public school system and its infrastructure are large and require consistent and diligent attention in order to manage it well. The FNM does not expect perfection. Despite rigorous planning and smart execution when the FNM was in office, our experience was that school openings still experienced the occasional hiccup. Not every eventuality was foreshadowed. At all times the FNM acted quickly to rectify problems. That is not the case with this Minister and this Government.

The FNM Shadow Minister of Education, Sen. Desmond Banister provided an early critique of the Fitzgerald-led school opening, noting that contrary to the statements by the Minister that “everything was ready and in order”, things were not as advertised by the Minister. There were significant gaps. The FNM refrained from further criticisms of the Minister in an effort to give him time to get his house in order. We have been sorely disappointed.

The Minister of Education’s failure of leadership has been prodigious.

Ensuring that the schools are ready on Day One is ministerial government 101.

The minister’s grade is “F”. Ensuring that all lingering disputes with the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) are settled before schools open is also basic governance.

Similarly, pretending that Uriah McPhee and Stephen Dillet schools do not have long standing air conditioning problems is to deny a long-standing reality of school maintenance.The Minister’s apparent willingness to gloss over these problems and pretend they do not exist seriously calls into question the Minister’s credibility. He must know that his casual dismissal of the air conditioning problems give the impression that he is not seriously concerned about the health and safety of the teachers and poor students and if they were to be quiet and go away that would make him happy.

Before opening day the Minister looked into the cameras and told the Bahamian people that all of the school repairs were done and the schools were ready to open. He was clearly wrong. We now know that numerous schools across New Providence and around the Family Islands were not ready. Of particular note, it is apparent that by not being fully briefed on the readiness of Stephen Dillet and Uriah McPhee schools the Minister once again gives the impression that like the Prime Minister, he is not focused on the essential details of his ministry. He comes across as being grossly uninformed and perhaps indifferent to the needs of the poor students in those schools.

When the FNM visited the Uriah McPhee Prime School today, it was clear that teachers and parents continue to have considerable concerns about the condition at the school and the extent to which the malfunctioning a/c unit and the treatments being applied are having on the physical health of everyone in the building. There appeared to be a major disconnect between the Minister’s interpretation of what is acceptable and the negative health concerns that the FNM heard. The Minister should not RUSH to force students and teachers back into an unhealthy building!!!!!

Additionally, the FNM was deeply troubled to hear the Minister casually dismiss the fact that primary school students were missing several days of schools. As a parent of school-aged children in the private schools he would not tolerate that kind of substandard performance from the leaders of his children’s schools and we find it deeply troubling that he has such a casual and dismissive attitude about students in public schools. He appears to have lower expectations for them.

This perhaps explains why the Minister’s reaction and response to the yet-again-unsatisfactory BGCSE results was so dismissive. He appeared to have no sense of urgency to do anything of significance about the problem.