THE president of the Union of Tertiary Educators of the Bahamas (UTEB) yesterday said he stands by his recent comments about the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) while accusing Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald of launching “personal attacks” against him.
Last week, UTEB President Mark Humes issued a statement that called the current relationship between BAMSI and COB a “charade” and said the “forced relationship” between the two had given “the ill-conceived BAMSI a sense of legitimacy” that would lead to an “academic Titanic”.
The union called COB’s involvement with BAMSI a “source of contention and confusion”. It also said it was concerned about COB officials being tight-lipped about “misleading statements” by government and BAMSI officials trying to tie the two together.
The union also took exception to BAMSI having yet to enter into an MOU with COB while already having done so with the University of Miami (UM), which was executed during a signing ceremony at the Rosential School on Virginia Key in July.
On Monday, Mr Fitzgerald told reporters the union’s comments were statements “irrational and irresponsible”.
However, yesterday, UTEB released a statement which said in spite of Mr Fitzgerald’s criticism, “neither he nor his colleagues were able to dispute any of the fact shared by UTEB”.
The statement added: “We, unlike the minister and his colleagues, are not talking about intentions; we are speaking about the facts, since, as the old adage says, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Mr Humes said the union has a responsibility to probe matters associated with COB adding that “bullying” for the minister will not change this. He added that the union still had questions about BAMSI’s relationship with COB.
“The President of BAMSI Godfrey Eneas claims it is a ‘hybrid’, which does not have any attachment to any ministry or the College of The Bahamas,” Mr Humes said.
“What exactly is BAMSI, and what is a hybrid? How do we reconcile public funds to support a private ‘hybrid’ company? What are the particulars of this company?
“Is BAMSI a public, higher education, academic institute or a private business? If it is a private entity, are public tax dollars and the tax dollars of faculty members and employees of the College of the Bahamas being used to fund and support this private entity?”
He added: “If BAMSI is a well-funded, autonomous, agriculture and marine institute - with a president, executive director, executive team, and governing board – then why is the College of the Bahamas developing its programmes and courses, recruiting its faculty, facilitating its courses under the auspices of COB, and leading the drive to recruit its students if COB were not being used to legitimise BAMSI as a teaching institution?”
He also questioned why the government did not invest in the revamping and growth of the Associate of Science Degree programmes in Agriculture and Agribusiness at COB, instead of creating a competing programme at BAMSI.
“In his meeting to get ‘some of the most influential businessmen in America and the world’ to invest in BAMSI, the prime minister said that these persons could ‘filter the money either through the UM or through a special foundation set up by the government’,” Mr Humes added.
He asked what was meant by this and questioned how this foundation would be set up and administered.
“On so many levels, there are issues and questions regarding BAMSI that need to be addressed, investigated, and clarified. The minister and his colleagues do not need to answer all questions at once. But they have a responsibility and should do the responsible thing - provide me and the public with the facts. It’s either put up or shut up,” Mr Humes said.