Editorial: Do the right thing!

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Seems this eBooks scandal is going nowhere. Seems, much like our ubiquitous devil grass, it keeps on rearing its ugly head. Inasmuch as those in officialdom would like to wish this latest administrative shenanigan away, it is here to stay.

That is, of course, until the people of Antigua and Barbuda get real answers as to who got what, when, where, why and how much? In other words, there ought to be a serious investigation.

The gravity of this disturbing shortchanging of our school children demands it. More importantly, at the end of the investigation, if any malfeasance is found, heads ought to roll. Actually, incompetence or inattention are grounds for dismissal as well. Again, because of the enormous damage done to our young minds. Antiguans are demanding it.

We believe our Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, is listening to the voices of discontent and protest. After all, he has set himself up as the paragon of virtue and pillar of probity. He has often waxed rhapsodic about his zero tolerance for malingering (see Teco Lake), negligence (see Michael Freeland), detention at airports (see Asot Michael), and failing to toe the party line (see Wigley George), and has actually threatened to hold accountable those responsible for this eBooks debacle (he has expressed his displeasure) if the Indian company with whom ranking education officials signed a mysterious and onerous contract does not agree to a major haircut on monies owed it.

To the good PM, we say bravo! Do the right thing and ask for the resignation of the top brass at the ministry. To say that they have not distinguished themselves in the management of our schools is putting it rather mildly.

Mediocrity abounds, and many of the longstanding stalwarts who once worked there are dismayed at the precipitous decline in the quality of leadership coming from the sacred halls of that once-proud office.

Of course, those who gave a green light for this ridiculous absentee style of management (running such an important ministry while travelling to and fro in pursuit of God knows what) did a disservice to our students. You’re either in, whole hog, or out. No man can serve two masters. If one is not totally committed, such a one should decline a portfolio. No matter how capable the deputies, the Ministry of Education needs the undivided attention of the good minister. And in the eBooks fiasco, it was woefully missing (no one seeming to know about the particulars of the contract, especially the proviso that our treasury is on the hook for an annual fee and content not in line with our CXC curriculum, and no content-availability arrangements made with providers like Macmillan). So even though the good minister is no longer globe-trotting, at least not as much as before, the disconnect from the actual running of the ministry is glaring – and our school children are suffering!

We join with others in making the call for the good minister of education (he who once abused the Queen’s English by referring to his opponent as a “Mice”) to do the right thing, not only in the interest of his own self-respect and sense of decency, but as a service to the cause of pedagogy and education in our fair state. In the long line of distinguished ministers of education since 1967, the current occupant of the ministerial chair is seriously outclassed. We’re referring to giants of the past like Messrs. Reuben Harris, Basil Peters, Joseph Myers, His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams, Bernard Percival, Bertrand Joseph and Dr. Jacqui Quinn. This good minister is . . . well . . . what can we say? Lacking? In his own words, “What a mice!”

Barring an honourable resignation, we call on the PM to reassign this gentleman to some other portfolio. Heck, please invent a portfolio for him where he can continue doing what he does best: pretending to be doing something but producing precious little – precious little for his constituents, precious little for education in our fair state!
Mr. Minister, “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting!” Do the right thing!

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