THE opposition FNM has charged that Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald appears to have less concern and lower expectations for poor students.
This September represents Mr Fitzgerald’s second school opening as minister, and the FNM claims his performance is only getting worse.
“The public school system and its infrastructure are large and require consistent and diligent attention in order to manage it well,” the party said in a statement yesterday.
“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 noted that its former Shadow Minister of Education, Desmond Banister, provided an early critique of the Fitzgerald-led school opening, noting that contrary to the minister’s claim that “everything was ready and in order”, all was not well.
“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,” the statement said.
The FNM added that suggesting Uriah McPhee and Stephen Dillet primary schools do not have air conditioning problems is denying a long-standing reality.
“He must know that his casual dismissal of the air conditioning problems gives 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,” the statement said.
The FNM said when it visited Uriah McPhee yesterday, it was clear that teachers and parents continue to have serious concerns about the condition at the school and the extent to which the malfunctioning air conditioning unit and the treatments being applied to it are affecting 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,” the party said.
“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.”