Rabain admits to errors in education revamp
Public schools were unable to open on the first day of term this month because of a catalogue of unforeseen calamities, according to the Government.
Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, blamed the lack of readiness on a host of unforeseen hurdles — including a global wood shortage, lighting strikes and a failure by teachers to hand in government-owned work laptops to officials over the summer break.
Mr Rabain also gave his own ministry a failing grade in its handling of the major shake-up of the education system, acknowledging that there were “resource constraints and some lapses in co-ordination between the various partners that worked on readying the facilities for our staff and students”.
The Government unveiled plans for a major overhaul of the education system in 2021. Many primary schools were to be demolished under the revamp, while facilities that survived the axe were to be upgraded.
But pupils were forced to study from home during the first week of the academic year, which started on September 11, because construction work at some sites had not been completed.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on Friday, Mr Rabain confessed that the transition to a parish primary school system had been “a mammoth task” that had suffered logistical setbacks, leaving government administrators blindsided.
In a 12-minute statement, Mr Rabain told MPs: “There were challenges in the face of an increased workload over the summer break, resource constraints and some lapses in co-ordination between the various partners that worked on readying the facilities for our staff and students.
“I will be the first to admit that we did not get a perfect score for school readiness. There were some challenges, as expected, but with such a mammoth task, a mammoth project at a time of significant change and resource constraints in the face of increased workloads.
Mr Rabain added that disputes with the Bermuda Union of Teachers had sidetracked progress.
He added: “Construction delays and lightning strikes at some primary schools have delayed all low-voltage data cabling tasks, delaying upgrading some locations with working connections.”
Mr Rabain revealed that the Department of Education had provided teachers and students with more than 5,000 laptops, desktops and smartphones that had required maintenance during the summer vacation.
Public school staff had been provided with 3,364 electronic devices, while students were given 1,804 devices.
He said: “This summer all laptops required significant updates, and IT must have possession of them to do the updates.
“However, I was made aware that most of the primary department education laptops had not been left in the school offices, despite requests to do so.
“This then resulted in these required updates do be done in the first week of school — a process that would have left teachers without devices for a period of time.
“The only school to comply entirely with IT’s request was Prospect Primary.
“Similar requests to enrol in safe and security protocols were met with less than 50 per cent compliance with task, and this had an adverse effect on compliance connectivity.”
Mr Rabain insisted that outside forces also played a role in delays.
He said: “As a result of a wood shortage this summer, proposed purpose-built cabinets and storage are still being worked on. Additionally there are other minor works still outstanding.
“Construction delays and lightning strikes at some primary schools have delayed all low-voltage data cabling tasks, delaying upgrading some locations with working connections.”
Despite his mea culpa, Mr Rabain accused the One Bermuda Alliance of spreading misinformation about the progress of improvements.
He said: “The consistent desire to make comments that are not factual or are taken out of context to achieve political ends is neither helpful nor warranted when it comes to public education reform.
“Despite comments purposely disseminated to create discord by Opposition members and others, all 34 public schools opened for students on Monday, September 11.
“I am under no illusion as to the nature of the Opposition and their supporters’ comments in an attempt to paint a picture of dysfunction, and that no schools were ready for September 11.
“However, I can say that broad, sweeping generalisations about school readiness this year are unjustified.”
But he concluded: “Resolving all of these issues will involve better communication, collaboration and co-ordination, whether it's with our partners, staff and the Bermuda Union of Teachers.
“These are issues that the Department of Education will work collaboratively with stakeholders should they arise next year.
“The ministry will monitor and assist the department of education as much as possible as they assist in putting better processes in place.”