It is the scourge of our times – government ministers who take home a hefty paycheck, never mind that they are seldom in their offices. They rack up serious frequent flyer miles, take home a smorgasbord of perks, per diems, travel allowances and all the other bells and whistles that come with being a minister of government, but deliver precious little in terms of real benefit to the people whom they were elected to serve, or the ministry to which they were assigned. In other parts of the world, these non-performing MP’s are relieved of their portfolios, reassigned, to do-nothing roles or tasks that better suit their propensity to waste time. Of course, they are still being paid tax dollars by virtue of the fact that they were elected – what a waste of a vote . . . and such a pity!
Here in our fair state, we are saddled with a few such ministers – men and women on the public purse who are not doing a blessed thing to move this country forward. Think treading water! They are totally bereft of ideas, vision or competency. Indeed, if truth be told, the only two ministers of this administration who seem to be about the people’s business with any degree of urgency are Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Minister of Health, Molwyn Joseph. Which in itself is a backhanded compliment because, “In a country of blind men, a one-eyed man is king!” We submit that we would be hard-pressed to find anybody who could honestly say that they are satisfied with the good performance of most of the ministers in this administration.
Even our PM often appears unimpressed and frustrated at the poor management that he is seeing at the ministerial level in his government. For example, late last year, he railed against the shocking state of road repair in our fair state and intimated that heads would roll if the situation were not quickly remedied. The cost over-runs at the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Marine Services (ADOMS) building also gave the PM much agita last year, and he pointedly refused to ante up any more money, moving with much haste to put an end to that debacle. More recently, as per the e-books scandal, he admitted to being confounded that “there were some procedural breaches” and “they did not follow the process” and “we may have a problem” and “I think by any standard that that is excessive” and “they would not have looked at the details of the contract carefully.” And these are the people responsible for . . . gasp! . . . educating our children? Heaven forfend!
Clearly, it is not difficult to imagine the number of times that the PM himself must be embarrassed at the slothfulness and ineptitude that he sees around him. It is also not a stretch to imagine his soliloquy, a la Al Pacino, “I am surrounded by idiots!”
Which brings us in greater detail to the simmering e-books fiasco! What an unmitigated disaster – a disaster made all the more epic and distressing by the fact that it represents a serious short-changing of our students – the future of our country. It is unconscionable that those in authority at our sainted Ministry of Education and the Board of Education could have agreed to such a burdensome annual obligation on the treasury. Apparently, the education geniuses agreed to invest $5 million for the secondary schools to move away from hard copy textbooks to electronic texts. This was, ostensibly, in an effort to reduce costs to the students. What the government did not know was that it was on the hook for an additional $5 million per year as per the contract signed by two ranking education geniuses. Never mind that the tablets were outdated and unwieldy, no arrangements were made with text book publishers to use their content, there was no collaboration with CXC as per content, (so the content on the tablets is woefully inadequate), and it was left to this murky Indian company, with whom the contract was signed, to source content. Based on our investigation, most children are not using the e-books, and teachers are frustrated and forced to resort to handouts because of these useless and highly overpriced devices. Good grief! Talk about ripping off our students!
Of course, many questions remain unanswered. Not least of which is the question of who benefited (if anyone did) from this boondoggle? Why did education Einsteins seem to be so lax with good stewardship of education funds? Where is the good minister of education in this farce? We submit and concur with PM Browne that the minister of education bears the ultimate responsibility. And if he had/has any sense of decency, he would do the right thing and resign. With his absenteeism and manifest lack of interest in our children (except for photo-ops and happy talk), he is a blight on our schools and our children’s future.
The PM has made it clear that if the aforementioned Indian company is not amenable to taking a haircut on the monies owed, and accepting that the contract is “null and void,” then heads will roll. We can only hope! The e-book tablets are named, ABCDE. We would rename them, ABCDE-F, for failure! An abject failure! As a result of this charade, there is very little readin’ and ritin’ in our schools . . . and a whole lot of rip-off of our students!