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Furore over ‘horrific’ Rabain video

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Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, attempted to prevent members of the St George’s community from getting information that would allow them to “second guess” government decisions, a video circulating on social media appears to show.

The 90-second clip of the minister in discussion with Philip Butterfield, co-chairman of the education governance committee, which was recorded last April, sees them appearing to agree that St George’s Preparatory School, an aided school being closed as part of the Government’s reform plans, “aren’t going to be in the mix” when school policies are finalised.

Yesterday a concerned parent fighting to keep St George’s Preparatory School open described the remarks as “defensive and horrific“.

But in an interview yesterday with The Royal Gazette and the Bermuda Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Rabain moved to downplay the comments, saying they had been taken out of context.

He said the clip was a “debrief” after a 2½-hour meeting about a planned Education Authority. He apologised to parents for any “confusion” and added that he had no intention of resigning over the matter.

Mr Rabain can be heard in the video telling Mr Butterfield: “Be wary of St George’s Prep, right.”

After the reform plans were announced in 2020, members of the St George’s community, including PTA executive committees, produced an alternative proposal to the closure of St George’s Preparatory School among other plans.

Mr Rabain added: “Every meeting that we have had with them, whether it’s been this, whether it’s been parish primary schools, whether it’s been anything else, they always come back and say ‘we want your research so that we can deconstruct it’.

“They always say that, ‘we want the research so that we can come back …’ and if you have ever seen the presentation they made for the parish primary schools, that’s where they started, ‘well, we haven’t seen the research, so, basically, how do we know that what you are saying even has been tabulated properly, has been looked at correctly?’

“And so we are not going to give them that opportunity to second guess like that.

“We just don’t, we just have to move on from guys who want to present like that all the time.”

Mr Butterfield responds by saying: “Minister, the reality is that, at the end of the day, they aren’t going to be in the mix.”

The minister replies: “Yes.”

Mr Butterfield then continues: “So, you know, I think we have to, sort of, quietly remind them about that but that we do want to benefit from their knowledge and experience.”

Some reaction to the video on Twitter

One said: “Surprised? No. Outraged? Yeah. I'm a Prep parent. I've also publicly shared my views on primary school reform and conducted a survey on the consultation process used. This doesn't have public support. And now we have the minister making comments such as these. We need to pause.”

Another added: “Ace boy is really like ‘You dare question me? Who are you to question me?’ ”

“Crazy coming from the rebel group now known as the PLP” said another Twitter post.

One person said: “Not even surprised at this, they don’t care.”

The parent told The Royal Gazette: “We should get to question whatever we want. The minister has absolutely no right to hold back any research that they have done. It sounded very defensive.

“They don’t know what they are doing and they don’t like being questioned about it. This should all be out in the open.

“This is not a power play by parents. We are just trying to make sure our children are supported and he is picking on us for that? That’s just horrific.”

During the Zoom interview with the media, Mr Rabain said the debrief in the clip followed a meeting between the Education Authority Working Group and the aided schools including St George’s Prep.

He said: “There is no intention from any of us to withhold any information and we have not withheld any information that has been asked for …

“I am saying it was taken out of context — after listening to it I can see how it can be interpreted the way it is and so I want to take this time to apologise for the confusion and misunderstanding that the clip has done.”

Mr Rabain added: “The purpose of the meeting was to have a conversation with the aided schools to have a better appreciation for how they worked within the Bermuda public school system.

“What I should have made clear in the conversation that was recorded is that there has always been tensions between the ministry and Department of Education, and the aided school boards — this is not something that we wish to perpetuate.

“The Education Authority, which will be established at an arm’s length from the Government and with less political interference, is intended to be more flexible, more agile and less bureaucratic.”

In reference to the comment that St George’s Prep was “not in the mix”, Mr Rabain would only say: “What was meant by that comment was that St George’s Prep had not been selected as a parish primary school.”

Asked whether he would resign over the comments, Mr Rabain added: “My remit is to drive education forward — it is something that I have given the last 5½ years to and I will continue to serve as the education minister for as long as the Premier is happy with … as long as the Premier is doing what needs to be done and I am doing what needs to be done in order to move forward.”

Asked whether David Burt was happy with the way education reform was being implemented, Mr Rabain responded: “The Premier has articulated in private and in the public that education reform is one of the most important things that this Government is undertaking and he fully supports education reform.”

A series of “engagement sessions” are being held across the island to explain to staff and students details of the schools shake-up.

Mr Rabain said the meetings between the Education Reform Unit and parents and staff, which have been reported by The Royal Gazette, cover timings for the opening of all parish primary schools, closing of the remaining primary schools, the phasing-out of middle schools, introduction of new signature schools and the introduction of the signature exceptionalities and alternative programmes.

Mr Rabain said: “Through these engagement sessions, staff and parents have shared their questions and concerns openly and honestly.

“This feedback will help shape the way forward with the reform of the public education system as we balance stakeholder perspectives alongside the need to do what is in the best interest of Bermuda's children.

“We will continue engaging our key stakeholders, including the staff and parents of our Bermuda public school system, as their voice is vital as we move education reform forward.”

He said the ministry and department, and the Education Reform Unit, had conducted the sessions with 30 schools so far.

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Published April 25, 2023 at 3:02 pm (Updated April 25, 2023 at 3:02 pm)

Furore over ‘horrific’ Rabain video

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