In most of Shakespeare’s plays one would find a Jester in the royal Court. And this Jester, though he played the fool, would speak out against injustices or wrongs that the Kings or Queens would have committed against their subjects. In the modern world, it is the media on whom the public relies to voice their grievances. So, it was towards the media whom the teachers in Bimini recently turned to have their voices heard.
As the information unfolded in the local media, the public soon learned that the Home Economics room had been severely damaged during the first term of the previous school year and as of the start of this school year, it had not been repaired. This means that while the faculty and students at the Bimini All-Age School suffered through inconveniences and discomforts for about six months, they were expected to endure these conditions for another school year.
Thus the students at the local public school in North Bimini did not have the opportunity to begin their academic year on September 1st like the majority of school children throughout the Commonwealth. No, for them, school was delayed because their teachers refused to begin a school year in conditions unfit for teaching and learning.
Are we to think that the Ministry of Education and the Department of Education are out of touch with what happens in their schools? When the walk-abouts were taking place for the cameras, showing off new schools, and renovated spaces, why didn’t anyone bother to check on the Bimini All-Age School?
So after the teachers stood up for themselves and their students, the “powers that be” took notice and sent emissaries to quell the noise. The final decision made was that the Ministry of Education would rent classroom space from one of the independent schools on the island.
Now let’s see how smart our leaders in the Ministry of Education are. The classroom space was destroyed about nine months ago, and any layman would be correct to surmise that a new classroom could have been built in that time frame. In fact, an entire human being could have come into being in that time.
What it would have cost to build this new classroom will now have to be added on to what the Ministry will have to pay in rent. This all seems quite asinine to me, especially when the Government continuously quibbles over increasing the salaries of teachers who are the backbone of this society.
Sidney Collie was fired because of the debacle that occurred with the Local Government elections. Will the Minister of Education be fired or reprimanded in anyway for this calamity? Someone needs to be held accountable for this because for too long students and teachers in the Family Islands have been neglected and treated as second-class citizens.
The mere fact that there is a “hardship” allowance for teachers on the Family Islands indicates that they are going into a somewhat hopeless, no-win situation. Why are conditions and situations not being made better for students and teachers on these islands?
How do we expect our children to learn to love learning if we do not create environments that invite learning? While it may have been acceptable thirty, forty or fifty years ago teach in underequipped and non-aesthetically pleasing classrooms or spaces; that cannot be tolerated today.
If we want to spread the population of this country around the islands, then we need to ensure that people have options. Next to healthcare facilities, education is the most important factor to consider when thinking of moving to another island. And if the government of The Bahamas intends to treat the residents of the Family Islands like the residents of North Bimini, it’s going to be a hard sell to get people to migrate to other islands.
About the author: Joye Ritchie-Greene is an Educational Consultant, Writer and Martial Arts Instructor. She is the owner/operator of The Bahamas Martial Arts Academy; president of Time-Out Productions; and is also a columnist for the Freeport News. She has a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Human Resources, resides in Freeport, Grand Bahama with her husband and enjoys playing tennis. Joye can be reached at