To see the future, look at the past (or the present)

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If you are a regular reader of THE DAILY OBSERVER, you know that education is one of those things that is near and dear to our hearts.  We wear our passion for education on our sleeves for everyone to see.  We believe that education and knowledge are the keys to the future, and like Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  
Education, or rather our facilities, came to the fore recently when it was reported that the Antigua State College (ASC) was shut-down due to safety concerns.  The move came after a student was injured on the compound when a panel from a partition in the auditorium fell on her head.
Following the incident, the Ministry of Education stated, “…the college is closed to all students and non-essential staff so than an assessment can commence on the facilities”.  That is great but why does it always take something serious to happen before we act?  We always seem to be reacting rather than being proactive.
Anyone who has visited the ASC and knows the condition of the facility will likely be shaking their head.  The conditions have become a “when” and not “if” scenario of something like this happening.   Talk to the students and they will tell you that they have been concerned about the conditions at the facility for a very long time.  Their complaints, however, seemed to fall on deaf ears.  
The acting principal, Dr. Patricia Benn, has had very little to say on the matter other than “none of us were aware the material was rotting” and that when she heard of the incident, she acted immediately and asked the “maintenance man” to address the issue.   We are going to take Dr. Benn at her word regarding that particular piece of material but look around, the place is falling apart.  And we would love to get more information on the maintenance man because he must be one of the busiest people in Antigua.  So much to fix!
We do not want to be unduly critical of Dr. Benn because she cannot take it upon herself to fix the facility but where does the buck stop?  If it is a case that the students, teachers and administrator have been frequently and consistently raising the issues with the ministry, then the buck stops at the minister’s desk.  As the top education facility in the country, it is shameful that the conditions have been ignored for so long.  And this is not a political thing because it is also shameful that the former education minister allowed the facilities to deteriorate to the point that they were at handoff after the 2014 election.
The general feeling from the public is that ASC is done for.  We have a shiny new University of the West Indies campus coming on stream so there is little concern for the facility.  But we can’t help shake the feeling that we will see history repeat itself.  The shiny new, state of the art, UWI campus will wither in a short period of time and one day, something will fall on someone’s head.
We are eternal optimists but this is one of those cases where we have a bad feeling about how things will turn out.  The problem is, we just do not have a great history of caring for our education infrastructure.  Look at our national archives or more recently, the high court.  
And who suffers?  Not Minister Michael Browne as he jets off for his lofty education. No.  It is the students and the faculty – mostly the students. Already they are behind because of the effects of the passing hurricanes, now they are out of class for an unknown period while the facility is evaluated. It is highly unfair.
They say that you can predict the future by looking at the past. If the ASC is our guide, then the new University Campus of the West Indies at Five Islands has a sketchy future. Let us all hope and pray that we will break from the traditions of the past and ensure our youth’s future in education is given the highest priority.  
We are of the firm opinion that if we invest in and take care of our education system, to include the physical plant, we will have the best chance of becoming an economic powerhouse. However, if we continue to only react to crises, then we shall never progress as a nation.

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