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Parents should be up in arms

Muriel Wade-Smith (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

“Our cultural base is the tie that binds. It is the source of our unity and power.” — Wade Nobles, PhD

On May 22, I attended an assembly at Elliot Primary School. Sherrie-Lynn Lilley and her team were the presenters at this assembly. It was very empowering and the students were quite attentive and actively involved in the presentation.

Mrs Lilley is a phenomenal person, and it is most striking that she does not seem like she is blind. I thought it was quite a striking pronouncement when she said she sees with her ears. The aim of her organisation is “Inspire Bermuda”. She challenged the students to be advocates for people with “exceptionalities”.

I was also challenged by the word “advocate”. That night, when I said my prayers, I asked the Lord: “How can I be an advocate?”

In a soft, quiet voice, I heard the response: “Be an advocate for parents, teachers and students. Fight for a fair, just and equitable system of education for the students in the public schools.”

This is why I am writing to you concerning the recent decision to divide the 42 children registered at Harrington Sound Primary School into two classes of 21 while leaving Elliot with only four children registered.

Is this fair? Is this just? Is this equitable?

Wasn’t it Dame Jennifer Smith who established a class size of 15 per class? Why are you putting the pressure of six more than the usual class size on these two teachers at Harrington Sound? If I take the 42 children from Harrington Sound Primary and the four from Elliot and divide it by four for the number of P1s in the eastern district, I could make four classes of 11 each with two left over.

Too often, we the public are subjected to decisions made by the politicians. These decisions cause us to ask: “What are the ulterior motives? What are the political undertones? Is this a move to close Elliot?”

Parents all over Bermuda should be up in arms. This year it is Elliot, who will it be next year?

Every PTA from all over the island should come together and ask the minister to reconsider his decision. Doesn’t the minister serve at our pleasure. What would happen if all the PTAs came together and asked for the firing of the minister. What would happen if the union stood firm and decided that its teachers could not work in those oversized conditions?

Bermudians need to channel their cultural base into some definite action against this decision.

Over the years, while fighting for freedom, justice and equality, many Bermudians would come up to me and tell me they support me, but they would not publicly acknowledge their support. This caused me to ask the following questions:

• Are Bermudians living in truth?

• Are Bermudians fearful of speaking the truth?

• Are Bermudians under the “curse of silence” that can be broken only by speaking the truth?

I close with a quote from the foreword by Richard Shaull in the book entitled Pedagogue of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire.

Shaull stated: “His early sharing of the life of the poor also led him to the discovery of what he describes as the ‘curse of silence’ of the dispossessed. He came to realise that their ignorance and lethargy were the direct product of the whole situation of economic, social and political domination — and of the paternalism — of which they were victims. Rather than being encouraged and equipped to know and respond to the concrete realities of their world, they were kept ‘submerged’ in a situation in which such critical awareness and response were practically impossible. And it became clear to him that the whole educational system was one of the major instruments for the maintenance of the culture of silence.”

My sincere prayer is that God will intervene and rectify this situation in a fair, just and equitable manner.

Muriel Wade-Smith, PhD is a longtime educator. Her opinion began as a letter to Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, before being circulated for general consumption