Our Readers' Opinions
June 22, 2010
Totally unacceptable? So apologise now!

Tue, Jun 22, 2010

Editor: On Friday, June 4, 2010 a story was published in the Searchlight newspaper entitled “Totally Unacceptable”, in which the Ministry of Education’s Permanent Secretary, Nicole Bonadie-Baker,{{more)) was reported to say that the matter of a School Paper test item in which Vincentians were called dunce for exercising their freedom of choice in a recent referendum election, was an internal matter and that the Ministry “does not discuss internal matters in the media”. This is confusing and disappointing to say the least.

Firstly, it is confusing to describe the matter as “internal” when those test papers are in the homes of the children who wrote the test, had them marked and returned to them to be taken home to their families. This matter is in the public, and it has done its damage in insulting the intelligence of 56% of Vincentians who merely exercised their God-given, or inalienable freedom of choice in the November 25, 2009 referendum election. It is unheard of that in light of these facts, the body responsible for schools could simply justify a ‘no comment’ by claiming that the matter is internal. Is the Ministry of Education not accountable to anybody? to the children whose parents, guardians and other family members could have been insulted; to the families themselves, to Vincentians for this gross and wicked item on a school test paper? Who is the Ministry of Education working for? Not for the people of this country, 56% of whom were insulted by a school under their management? Oh for God’s sake and for respect to humanity and your fellowmen, say something!

Secondly it is disappointing because in the characteristic of leadership this unacceptable reaction reflects poverty. True leaders have to sometimes take responsibility for wrongs coming out of their organizations, even when they were not directly responsible or even aware of the evils. In this case it is not OK at all for them to remain quiet and not address the issue to comfort the public and put things right. The facts are that that wicked insult was on a test paper that came out from the CW Prescod Primary School, from Grade 5 room 19, to be exact, and the Ministry of Education became aware of it. The information is insulting to Vincentians and the Ministry should apologise for it. That would be true leadership. The Permanent Secretary is paid by the people’s tax money and she must understand that she owes the people accountability and in this case a proper, humble apology for what happened under the watch of the Ministry she heads administratively. This failure has brought the Ministry and the government into disrepute.

The issue is not how the test paper “got out there” because it first got out there when children took them home. Are you upset with the children for that? Or are you just vexed it got to the press? The issue is not “maybe another teacher altered the test before it was administered to the children”. That is a lame excuse to protect the teacher responsible for the class and the test and the public does not buy it for this simple reason. If that teacher knew she did not draft that question into the test originally, if she did not recognise that supposedly “new” item on the test when she gave the test in December, then she would have raised alarm when she saw the test papers as she was marking them. Not so? She would have brought it to the attention of her principal that something went wrong. How could she not see that item when for every paper for the 30 plus or less students in that class, she has to go over that item each time while marking? We know there was no alarm however since the principal said she was not aware of the test item until the story broke.

Alas, it is only when the story broke that there seems to be confusion and suggested theories that the test was altered. This again displays weak leadership and weak human resources management because covering up faults to try to protect evil does not help characters. You all seem to wish this will go away by dealing with it “internally” as you say. But it will not disappear because it is horrible and Vincentians ought always to remember it. It is totally unacceptable and what’s worse is that “no comment” drives the insult further. Apparently, Vincentians really are dunce and do not deserve an apology, let alone your time in commenting in the form of an apology. Most of all I am sorry that human beings could be so callous and insensitive to their own fellowmen. The influence of leaders in this land who have used similar language to describe us (empty and backward etc) has taken its toll. But the influence of those who protest against this wickedness will prevail in due time. Vincentians will not take this any longer. A new day is coming.

Anesia O. Baptiste