Stopping short of calling for the immediate removal of Fayval Williams from the education and youth portfolio, Opposition Senator Damion Crawford has declared that the ministry needs greater energy and creativity ahead of the new school year.
Crawford is calling on the Education Minister to change in order to address the several issues plaguing the sector before the scheduled reopening of schools on September 5. He also said there is the option for the person at the helm of the education portfolio to be changed in order to effect change.
“We are concerned about what seems to be… the nonchalance of dealing with the education system already underperforming before COVID-19 pandemic and decimated by the decisions of the Government during the pandemic,” said Crawford.
He was speaking at a People’s National Party (PNP) press conference that centred on back-to-school preparations.
Earlier, Crawford claimed that almost every aspect of the plan to ensure the readiness of the first full face-to-face resumption of the academic year since the disruption brought on by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, was in disarray.
Aside from the migration of teachers, Crawford pointed out that schools are grappling with the late distribution of rental books and inadequate furniture.
“Equally, there is a grave concern from the Opposition benches about the great shortage of rental books going into September 2022. Indeed, communication with principals suggest that between 20 and 60 per cent of our students will not be able to get all the books due to them on the rental system,” he outlined.
“Additional interviews with parents indicate that last year, some of the children got none of their rental books because of the shortage of rental books within the system.
“Another concern is poor and insufficient infrastructure. The education system has always been plagued with poor infrastructure, and it’s a reality that is often discussed but seldom acted on,” Crawford stated.
He added: “The insufficiency of furniture, and indeed, classroom spaces, is extremely drastic going into this school year 2022.”
The senator also noted that the Sixth Form Pathways Programme will add to the infrastructure challenges in several schools come September.
Further, he informed that many principals are in “limbo” in relation to the responsiblities of each school pertaining to the mandatory requirement that each student should enrol in such a programme.
“If it is mandatory, what are the repercussions if the students do not show up? Many principals are incapable of answering this question.
“Has enough been done to motivate the parents to send children that graduated from fifth form back to school? How will schools address the additional teachers and facilitators needed for 200 to 300 additional students?” Crawford questioned.
“It is our belief, unfortunately, with no intention of disrespect, that the ministry needs greater energy and creativity at this moment in time,” he proposed.
When asked if he is calling for a change in leadership at the education ministry, Crawford said: “We are saying that the minister either needs to be changed or to be changed based on her ability to change.”
He elaborated: “There are two methods of change. You can change the person or the person can change.
“So if the minister, at current, is incapable to get greater vigour and vitality as it relates to the management of the education system, (and) if she is incapable to exert the energy and interest and excitement that it demands, then the minister needs to change,” the Opposition senator indicated.
“However, I believe that the first call is for the minister to understand and accept her need to change, and to indicate to the public that she can do better and she not just misunderstand the circumstances that face the education system,” said Crawford.