A mess not entirely of his own making but Rabain hasn’t helped
From the moment that the Bermuda Union of Teachers suggested that the Premier get involved in the dispute that has thrown public education into crisis, you could take that in the least as a subliminal vote of no confidence in the Ministry of Education and, by extension, Diallo Rabain, the education minister.
The last time David Burt was of a mind to intervene publicly in a dispute that involved one of his Cabinet ministers — the Belco/Ascendant Group kerfuffle, which dominated the news cycle for three weeks in October — that minister, Walton Brown, found himself reassigned from home affairs to the Cabinet Office in a subsequent reshuffle.
A direct result?
Probably not, but the optics are inescapable, especially given the events that led to Michael Weeks getting the heave-ho from social development and sport.
It was Weeks who ordered the investigation into the affairs of the Department of Child and Family Services, leading to the suspension of director Alfred Maybury — a story that has rumbled on and on, to the point now that the Government finds itself subjected to legal action for financial compensation of a social worker.
But hidden in the periphery, little spoken of, are events that brought greater indignity on the country — the incarceration of Weeks’s sons in England for drug dealing. As his portfolio meant he was the minister responsible for the national drug policy, the optics were even more damning.
At a time when Whitehall is looking down its rather long nose at Bermuda over a variety of issues, including our “tax haven” status, registers of beneficial ownership and same-sex marriage, a minister who could not keep his own house in order gave conservative broadsheets instant headline fodder at our expense — not to mention the tabloids.
For it could be argued that it was not learned behaviour from such a short time in Britain that inspired the Weeks boys to concoct such a complex, mobile drug-dealing operation.
Yet, when Weeks was removed, despite appearing to perform laudably in his ministry, not a great deal was said by way of explanation. His predecessor, Zane DeSilva, was returned to Cabinet in tourism and transport, and Jamahl Simmons was made a Minister without Portfolio.
Opposition leader Craig Cannonier has tried unsuccessfully thus far to smoke Weeks out over the DCFS affair, and he and the One Bermuda Alliance will likely continue to try doing so.
But the Progressive Labour Party does siege mentality quite well. Loyalty and falling into rank are paramount in protecting the party from enemies seen and unseen, real or imagined.
And so it is we move on to the embattled Minister of Education, who should be on the precipice of a cliff given the horror show that his ministry has become — general elections notwithstanding, a succession of ministers have walked the plank for far less.
But far be it for this minister to fall on his sword, he has taken to swinging it blindly into the night in the hope that he might connect with something tangible that can prolong a stay of execution.
Not quite the master of deflection, this one.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, but how desperate can one be to throw their own daughter into the line of fire, as the minister so inappropriately did when proclaiming his passion for seeing public schools prosper?
It is taken as read that each minister is passionate about the portfolio under their care, or else they could be readily exposed as frauds and wasters of the public purse.
The issue is not about how many politicians have their children in public education — as Rabain was wont to trot out over the weekend when a guest of the largely propaganda talk show Orders of the Day. It is about what the minister is going to do about this slippery slope of a ministry and the many divisions affecting key stakeholders that have led to an almighty impasse — and empty classrooms.
That is all that matters at this point. No reminders about mould or the state of education immediately in the wake of the OBA’s brief 4½ years in charge, during which it ran through three ministers.
This very public mess was years in the making and Rabain only makes matters worse by preaching political mandates when he should be finding solutions and helping to create a utopia where families who do not have pots to spew invective in will not risk all to avoid public-school education for their children.
“Two Bermudas” starts in the schools, and the socioeconomic divide will stay that way until there is universal confidence in government education.
Everything else is noise.
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