Editorial: Exceptions to the rules

Since Hurricane Irma passed over Barbuda and left a trail of destruction across our sister isle, it is obvious that normal rules do not apply. The entire population of the island was evacuated by mandatory order to prevent further injury and loss of life when Hurricane Jose threatened to finish-off what little was left after Irma trampled through.

The rebuilding efforts have been slow and they have left many Barbudans frustrated. The frustration level is heightened for those who have school-aged children. The reason? The schools in Barbuda have not reopened and the earliest forecast seems to be the new school year in September – a year after Irma touched down.

Recently, the Director of Education, Clare Browne, stated that Barbudan teachers who were assigned to schools in Antigua, should remain in Antigua because schools on Barbuda are still closed. Naturally, this also meant that anyone with school-aged children would also need to stay in Antigua.

Then he delivered the catch-22. He said, “In order for schools to reopen on Barbuda, the teachers would have to be back in Barbuda. In order for the teachers to be back on Barbuda there must be adequate accommodation for them.”

He continued, “in order for schools to reopen in Barbuda, there must be students there, and in order for this to happen the community has to be back up and there is suitable accommodation for students and parents.”

Not content to just sit and wait, some brave Barbudans have decided to return, and a good many have returned with school-aged children. In order to facilitate the continued education of their children, some educators have set up class in a church while they await the rebuilding of schools on the island. That has not been met with the glee one would expect.

The powers that be in the Ministry of Education and elsewhere in government seem to be displeased by the Barbudans’ initiative, citing that there are conditions for operating a school. So while there are heaps of criticism towards Barbudans for not taking initiative and going back home to get things back to normal, there is now heaps of criticism for those, who do.

On an island where all the normal rules seem to be on pause as the rebuilding process chugs slowly along, there appears to be no exception to the rules governing education. The educators and the 50 or so students that have registered seem to be held to a different standard than everybody and everything else.

We understand that there are conditions for operating a school, including the need for basics like running water, but we would have thought that the ministry of education and the government would be bending over backwards to support the makeshift church school to meet the requirements instead of criticising them for taking the initiative of providing an education for those children that are there.

Rae Beazer, one of the educators behind the temporary school, has made it clear that this is not a political issue. She has openly voiced her support for the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) so as to dismiss any criticism from the kool-aid drinkers, who would want to suggest that she is a political operative and that the school is nothing but a political stunt by the opposition. That statement, in and of itself, is a sad indictment of where the political divisiveness has reached in our society.

Ms. Beazer, an obvious ‘true Barbudan’, elevates the discussion beyond the boundaries of just education saying “right is right and wrong is wrong.” She cannot understand the call for Barbudans not to return home, even though important things such as running water, electricity, a functioning hospital and functioning school are not in place, adding that it is expensive for a Barbudan to live in Antigua and pay rent, etc.

She questions, “why are they [the government] concentrating on an airport and not the school?”. She also posits that instead of education officials coming to Barbuda to inspect her temporary school, they should worry about their failure to open schools in Barbuda.

Right is right and wrong is wrong, and Ms. Beazer has some legitimate points that maintain their legitimacy no matter her political persuasion. On an island where rules have been set aside, for the most part, it is odd that the exceptions do not apply in this case. The bit of positivity that this temporary school represents is beginning to be overwhelmed by the negativity being focused on its existence.

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