The article of Kaieteur News Columnist ‘Peeping Tom’ (28.08.20) titled “Priya’s problems” is an oddity. It was an innocuous attempt to attack the Minister of Education, in her third week in office, for no readily apparent reason.
The ‘Peeper’ is a column written by various authors, who use collective anonymity, and the juxtaposed opinions can lend an appearance of schizophrenia at times. This particular attempt fails for the author’s lack of insight into the policies and workings of the Ministry of Education, as it proves the axiom that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.
Let’s examine the article in detail: Two ‘incidents’ are identified, the first being the Minister’s infamous address at the US Ambassador’s residence in 2014; which was interpreted locally to mean that the PPP/C would forever be hated by the United States, and Guyana’s electoral mechanisms would be ‘manipulated’ to keep the PPP/C from ever forming a Government of Guyana.
Only a fool would think that Ms Manickchand acted rogue in delivering that message to the US State Department, and only the most subservient would think that the remarks would wound American pride irreparably. Recent events demonstrate that the 243-year-old USA can handle uncomfortable exchanges with other nations maturely and honestly, and certainly without resort to the subversion of conscience and democracy. Even the ‘Peeper’ admits this incident has no bearing on the education sector. It seems to be a case of throwing mud in the hope that some of it sticks. Pathetic!
The second “incident” is Minister Manickchand’s decision to abandon the Automatic Promotion Policy, aka “no child left behind”. While the ‘Peeper’ lauds the decision, and laments, “The only fault which could be laid at the feet of the Minister is that it took her too long to scrap the policy”, the ‘Peeper’ (he/she) does not know that due to immense pushback from parents, the policy reversal has not been implemented to date. Doctor the Honourable Nicolette Henry simply ignored the policy, and never tried to make the sensible change. The ‘Peeper’ would have been better served by a conversation with Minister Manickchand about the problems in the sector than by making unfounded summations.
The columnist then attempts to assert that Priya Manickchand failed to find a solution to the previous administration’s scrapping of the “One Laptop Per Family” programme, and that decision’s effect on the ability to deliver online education during the global pandemic. This is a gratuitous attack, given that the budget debates are set for next week, and Minister Manickchand is expected to produce and defend her plans and budgetary expenditure for the sector during those proceedings. The ‘Peeper’ is palpably premature.
The columnist ends by stating the obvious prerequisites for improving the Education or any other sector: vision, new skills, and new thinking. In this, I fail to see the criticism that the challenge in this sector would continue to convince parents that “subjects” do not make for a complete education.
Dr Rupert Roopnaraine failed to get buy-in for his transformative agenda, and any new vision will have to entail massive parental consultation and collusion. I believe Priya Manickchand is best equipped for this job, and has the confidence of the Ministry staff and support from teachers who are cognisant of the changes that must be made for the benefit of students and the nation.
The Peeper’s missive is undoubtedly premature, and he may want to try again when the vision is laid before the house and people of Guyana.