Sat | Apr 20, 2019

Mark Malabver | The miseducation of Senator Ruel Reid

Published:Wednesday | March 13, 2019 | 12:11 AM

The minister of Education, the Honourable Senator Ruel Reid, has, in recent times, expressed concerns about educators and board members who are active in politics and who are critical of him and policies of the education ministry in the public domain. He has since published a raft of proposals that he wants to be in the regulations to govern how, when, where, and who should not be allowed to criticise him in the public domain.

CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOMS

The proposal, in its current form, seems to lack any genuine appreciation for the rights that are given to citizens of this country under the Constitution. For example, Clause Two of the proposal states that “while all Jamaicans have a constitutional right for freedom of association and free speech, this must be constrained by the employer/employee relationship.” The proposal in and of itself seemed to be predicated on a false premise.

The honourable minister has apparently been miseducated on the Constitution. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of association are inalienable rights that are given to citizens under the Constitution.

Therefore, regardless of the nature of the relationship, whether it is church/congregation, political party leader/political party members, husband/wife, or employee/employer, I still have the right to freedom of speech, expression, and association. There is no conditionality or constraints to these rights under the constitution.

Even if one’s utterances are motivated or influenced by a religious, economic, social, or political agenda that they may have and as selfish, egocentric, and narrow minded as they may be, they are still entitled to making those utterances under the Constitution.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

I note with interest that one of the clauses of the proposal is that principals and teachers must always avoid situations that can be considered a conflict of interest. I am sure that this should also apply to anyone who occupies the post of minister of education.

By virtue of the fact that the minister’s secondment has been extended, it would have meant that he would have written a letter to the board of management, requesting an extension for a third year. He then effectively presided over the decision to grant himself secondment. Against the context of Section 53 of the Education Code of Regulations, does this not represent a conflict of interest?

So, too, is the fact that Jamaica College, for which the honourable senator is still technically the principal, received a contribution of $20 million from the education ministry towards the building of its synthetic track.

DOUBLE STANDARD?

During the period of the People’s National Party’s administration, the minister did a short stint in the senate. Is he trying to tell me that at no time during his time in the senate did he levy one iota of criticism against the then minister of education? I am merely asking this rhetorical question because I watch the news religiously.

Is this a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’? What is good for the geese must be good for the goose!!! Anything less is double standard and hypocrisy!!

POLICY ANALYSIS

The ministry of education, like any other public-sector body, is driven by policies. Many persons, including ministry technocrats and ministers, fail to understand that there is a science to developing a policy. Eugene Bardach points to an eight-step process, which takes you from policy development to implementation.

One of the stages of policy development is that of problem analysis. At this stage, the issue is identified, the issue then moves to a condition, and then the condition moves to a problem. Not all issues become a condition, and not all conditions become a problem. It only becomes a problem when the condition negatively affects the system or the society as a whole.

Another step in the process of policy analysis is the identifying of at least three alternatives or solutions to the problem. After this step, a criterion is developed to guide the selection of the best alternative.

My questions, therefore, are: Was there any form of policy analysis in relation to this matter? What is the issue? What is the condition? What is the problem? What were the alternatives, and what was the criterion that was used to select the best alternative?

If the proposal in its current form failed to follow these steps in policy analysis, then it is not even worth any serious consideration.

CONSULTATIONS

The honourable minister often prides himself on being a transformational leader. One of the hallmarks of a transformational leader is his/her ability to bring stakeholders into the discourse at a very early stage. No form of dialogue took place between the minister and educators in relation to this matter. This sort of top-down approach to the business of education and rules of engagement is a gross insult to the teaching profession. Were stakeholders consulted?

WALTER RODNEY RIOTS

I was not around during those times, but I am mindful of the Walter Rodney Riots of 1968 in which censorship was the order of the day. The riots happened because Hugh Shearer, who was prime minister of the time, banned Dr Rodney from returning to Jamaica to resume teaching duties at The University of the West Indies. He was banned because he was critical of the Government and the middle class. Is this the beginning of the renaissance of censorship for educators?

POLITICAL VICTIMISATION?

The minister needs to be careful that his actions are not interpreted as an attempt at political victimisation. This is particularly so because all of the politically active educators that Minister Reid seems to have an issue with are from the People’s National Party.

I must, therefore, conclude that the proposal is ill advised, misguided, unfortunate, unconstitutional, a poor show of leadership and seems motivated by some kind of personal or political vendetta.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The minister needs to withdraw this document and instruct his secretary to place it in file 13. There are more important matters in education that warrant the minister’s attention.

Nobody has a patent on knowledge, information, or skill sets. Criticism helps to facilitate introspection, which is something that all good leaders should always be prepared to do.

The minister should, instead, encourage and facilitate criticism and allow for views to contend. It is through this process that the best ideas can emerge for implementation, and bad ideas are discarded because they simply cannot withstand the rigours of scrutiny.

Finally, the minister needs to rise above the pettiness and get on with the business of education. Attempting to muzzle educators is unacceptable.

In the words of David Goodman, “Silence is the biggest threat to democracy.” He certainly needs to re-educate himself on these matters.

Mark Malabver is principal of Yallahs High School, chairman of the Inner City Teachers’ Coalition and a PhD candidate in Educational leadership and management. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com