THE children of our nation seem to be caught in the middle of an almighty mess.
According to both Education Minister Glenys Hanna Martin, and Bahamas Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson, a string of schools are not ready for the return of students to the classroom.
Mrs Hanna Martin said last week that there was no timeline for the return to the classroom – and those schools that would not open amid “egregious neglect” included L W Young, Yellow Elder Primary, C W Sawyer Primary, Ridgeland Primary, Sybil Strachan Primary, Uriah McPhee Primary, S C McPherson Junior High School, Gerald Cash Primary School, Carlton Francis Primary and the Centre for the Deaf – as well as George Town Primary and L N Coakley High, both in Exuma.
Meanwhile, Mrs Wilson says she met the minister shortly after the election in September to warn her that schools were in dire need of repair.
Worse, the virtual platform for children to log on to from home to be able to continue their education is also experiencing problems, it seems.
Mrs Wilson says that the virtual platform is “inoperable and inadequate”, and she says she has been sounding the alarm over that for the past 20 months.
Now, of course, there is political capital to be had for the new administration in pointing the finger at its predecessor, but what matters is what is happening here and now for our children.
Not able to go to the classroom, not able to learn effectively from home – they’re caught in a no man’s land where there is no path forward for them. For some, it will be a battle just to get them to re-engage with school at all if they have been left to drift for so long.
Then we have the prospect of vaccines arriving for five - to 11-year-olds to help with the return of face-to-face learning.
It’s been hard enough to get parents to take vaccines voluntarily – now it will be a challenge to get the children of those same parents to get their jabs, even if it does make it safer for them to return to school.
Some of our children are being left behind, and we need to ensure that we find a way to help them to catch up. That’s not just academically, some will be experiencing challenges socially as well after being away from schools and their friends for so long.
It won’t be easy, and simply fixing schools whose repairs should have been done long ago won’t be a cure on its own. But there is no excuse for schools not being ready with all the extra time they have had beyond the usual summer repair period – and that needs to be sorted out as soon as possible.
Even sooner there needs to be a resolution to problems with virtual learning – we can’t blame students for falling behind if the technology is failing them.
Beyond that though we need to think carefully about how we help this generation of children to overcome this long gap in the centre of their school life. Mrs Hanna Martin – and Mrs Wilson – face a tough task. That they’re starting out speaking with one voice is a good beginning.
How does Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis feel about oil?
Well, speaking on Friday after his return from the climate conference, he said that he is “minded not to allow oil drilling” in The Bahamas.
Wind back in time, however, and there he was representing the Bahamas Petroleum Company while he was in Opposition.
It’s very easy to oppose oil drilling right now – as there is no one with a licence to do it. But it would be interesting to see if his former clients, now with a new name of Challenger Energy Group PLC, were to return if that position would change.
If he is not minded to allow oil drilling, put it in writing, put it in law. That would be one firm step to take after a conference that could too easily become a talking shop rather than something that spurred real action.
Or would he rather listen to the Mr Davis of last year, who said he supported oil drilling if it is done in an “environmentally friendly” manner.
Back then, he said: “If we have a natural resource of oil, why should we allow it not to be exploited for the benefit of the Bahamian people?”
Perhaps he has had a change of heart, but if so we might need to see more than him being “minded” one way or another.
Which Mr Davis is our leader now? The one lauded for his comments at the climate change conference? Or the one who represented BPC and talked of environmentally friendly drilling?
The answer will be in the actions that follow his words.