EDUCATION Minister Glenys Hanna Martin speaking yesterday.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Glenys Hanna Martin yesterday blasted her predecessor, Jeffrey Lloyd, saying he opposed the resumption of face-to-face teaching and left behind “a crisis and debacle” in public education.
Her comment came after Mr Lloyd, during a Free National Movement press conference on COVID-19, criticised the government for postponing its plan to resume learning with a hybrid model amid soaring COVID-19 cases.
“It is with utter disbelief that I listen to the comments of the former Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd at today’s press conference,” Mrs Hanna Martin said in a video recording. “I will say at the outset that I have endeavoured to resist commentary on the lacklustre performance of the former minister. However, he has re-emerged into the spotlight and as a result I am compelled to respond.
“He must be aware that by now I know the facts. The former minister must remember that as he advocates for children to resume face-to-face learning when the Ministry of Health and Wellness advises otherwise, during his term in office he made the decision to keep public school children in a fully virtual mode when there was no such public health prohibition and at that time all other schools in the country went into a hybrid model which he is now advocating for.
“He also knows that no other active steps were taken or focus brought to bear to track down or help the thousands of children who were plummeting through the cracks because they have never attended school in almost two years. In fact, he has hardly, if ever, spoken of those children. Further, the inaction of school repairs nationwide was a level of political delinquency that was perhaps unprecedented. The former minister knows full well he left behind a crisis and a debacle and he should instead be heard to say that he will join hands with all stakeholders to ensure that children are given every opportunity possible to develop their potential. This is the time for heroes not hypocrites,” the Englerston MP said.
Earlier yesterday, Mr Lloyd said the continued absence of students from classrooms will be detrimental to the advancement of Bahamian students.
He said: “In December, 2020, after extensive consultations with stakeholders, the MOE released a 95-page document entitled the Strategic Plan for The Safe Reopening of schools. The plan did not only cover the present COVID situation, but included all circumstances where school attendance may be disrupted, such as with a hurricane or other natural disaster. It was the calculated decision of the Ministry of Education that the education of Bahamian students could continue in almost all circumstances under one of three modalities.”
He said there are some schools on various islands that can facilitate in-person learning.
“The FNM, therefore, urges the government to revisit its decision, and permit those public and private schools who can demonstrate the capacity for strict adherence to the health protocols to operate. Bahamian students cannot afford to miss another day of essential school instructions. Too many have suffered already,” he said.
“Before the FNM demitted office in September, 2021, Cabinet approved the appointment of some 150 all-purpose workers to assist with the COVID compliance on school campuses. This was intended to relieve administrators and teachers of the burdensome task of extra vigilance in dealing with COVID, while placing it in the hands of duly qualified and suitably trained COVID invigilators. Where are those invigilators now? They can be a vital ingredient in the safe conduct of the operation of schools.”
Last August, the Ministry of Education announced public schools would open with a completely virtual format to begin the 2021/2022 academic year. Mr Lloyd was Minister of Education at the time.
The ministry also advised private institutions to adopt the virtual learning model and warned that any school wishing to open with face-to-face learning would first have to seek permission from the Ministry of Education.
“As the 2021/2022 academic year approaches, the Ministry of Education would like to inform the public that all government schools will open in a virtual learning format on August 30, 2021,” the ministry said in a statement at the time.
“While the preferred mode of instructional delivery continues to be face-to-face, the ministry remains guided by the mantra of ‘safety first, education always’.”