The recent results of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations have given us cause for retrospection and what we are seeing only leaves us more depressed than the previous year. For starters, we continue to experience horrendous performances in Mathematics and English—the language we are supposed to be speaking at the drop of a hat.
Indeed this situation is not unique to Guyana. Minister Priya Manickchand in a statement noted that this trend is extended across the region. Some states in the United States are also grappling with this problem.
Some have devised strategies that seem to be working. They are focusing on the discipline of the teachers. They go further. They publish a list of the poor performing schools alongside those that have improved. This is an annual thing so that parents and other observers could determine what is best for their children. The conclusion is that people make the system work.
Guyana should do the same. But there is more. If it rains ever so slightly teachers stay at home, then walk into the school the next day without even a “sorry I was absent.” The heads allow this to happen. There are no sanctions for absence and lateness.
We have had a look at some other systems that have guaranteed a turnaround in their academic performances. In one education district every teacher has a key to his or her classroom. In short, every form is headed by a teacher. If that teacher is absent then the classroom is closed. Surely this will not escape notice.
In one city school, a head spends a lot of time tracking down teachers who prefer to lounge in the staff room even as they have classes to supervise. However, that head is not supported by the administration of the Education Ministry. When she reports these teachers since she does not have the power to suspend, these teachers invoke friendship with people in the administration and escape punishment.
This poor attitude is common in the wider society and has led to massive garbage piles in various parts of the city, not least among them the compound of the High Court. In which other country can people remove the decorative rails around the court with impunity?
The situation is allowed to continue because nobody is prepared to protect his area of work. A salary is received at the end of the month and that is all that is necessary.
Some of us become annoyed when the older people complain that the colonial days were better. We accuse these people of being steeped in the past, of being foreign-minded. What we do not consider is the fact that the colonials had systems that pushed us to the top of the literacy ladder in the region. There were school inspectors, incentives for good performance and rigid discipline. We have taken control of our systems with disastrous results.
Teachers are not allowed to discipline children; parents are allowed to walk into schools and assault teachers who have decided that coupled with their penchant for not working, they are going to opt for self-preservation.
Fortunately, there are magistrates who impose some harsh sentences on parents who walk into schools as though they own the institution.
Former Education Minister Shaik Baksh, asked about the school inspectorate, said that they were few and that the batch could only visit a school every three years.
Today, there is one school less. The inspectors are in a position to breathe a sigh of relief, but the community of One Mile Wismar is angry. An idiot torched the building in which over 800 children tried to get an education. The idiot claimed that someone paid him $200,000 to conduct the dastardly act.
It is not enough that the community beat him before handing him over to the police. He is going to be granted bail and perhaps allowed to disappear.
It boggles the mind that this idiot could actually contemplate robbing children of an education. Guyana is in the doldrums when its people could destroy a school at a time when people are complaining about the education system.