In just about three weeks from now, schools across the island will be reopened to welcome the thousands of children often conveniently referred to as the future of the nation. However, many students – and teachers – are more likely than not to be confronted with the same challenges that plagued them during the last school year.
Seemingly part of the national lore, hardly a new school year starts without controversy making the news about the disrepair schools are found in after nearly two months of being shut for the summer vacation. Understandably, the associated frustration of students and teachers who are forced to work under such sub-human conditions is real.
In September 2015, then Minister for Education, Dr. Robert Lewis, told the media that it would take around $100 million to fix this country’s school plant. Since then, hardly any word from government – past and present – as to coughing up that hefty sum to ameliorate the plight of the school plant has been forthcoming.
Notwithstanding the fact that even the school curriculum still finding itself wanting is in dire need or redress, the upkeep of our nation’s places of learning should be a top priority for the government. A visit to many of our schools – especially the primary schools – would reveal either of two things: that either those who control the nation’s purse strings have no children attending those schools or they see nothing wrong with a stifling learning environment.
By now, one would have thought that with the number of investments coming the island’s way via the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), that the nation’s education sector, which had been struggling both physically and academically for years now, would be among the priorities for the programme’s proceeds.
If meeting the needs or what many have coined “the real world realities of work” is such a big thing on the minds of those charged with setting the nation’s agenda is truly important, a paradigm shift in how education is treated must be made. Also, schoolchildren must be made to feel that they are not given second-rate places of learning to cultivate their minds when their parents pay hard-earned taxes to the State.
Granted that the State must own up to its responsibility of keeping our schools in pristine shape, the time is also ripe for parent/teacher associations to be more engaging in self-help projects at schools – even bringing in their friends and co-workers – to raise funds that redound to rectifying the problem of schools being dilapidated and stifling. That way, students get their first lesson in life about governments: that it is certainly not a wise move to depend solely on government for everything, even if the government seems to make it look like citizens should.