Don't throw out the baby with the (Ruel Reid) bathwater

Don't throw out the baby with the (Ruel Reid) bathwater

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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Conceivably, we will yet see more to come concerning in the matters leading to allegations of impropriety against former senator and Education Minister Ruel Reid.

The recent 14-point document released from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) that “possible administrative breaches and conduct which may have contravened four criminal laws” regarding the investigation of irregularities involving Mr Reid, the Ministry of Education, and Caribbean Maritime University is but one scene in what is sure to be an episodic exposé.

The ODPP was sure to point out that “the police and other investigative bodies, nevertheless, retain primacy of decision-making in whether to arrest and charge and place any matter before the court”

Was the body effectively washing its hands — as Pontius Pilate did — and absolving itself of any responsibility for the outcome?

But the role and function of Ruel Reid as education minister cannot be viewed solely through the spectacles of this most disappointing saga.

When he assumed office in this ministry he did so with the antecedents of being classroom teacher, principal, textbook writer, and leader of the nation's teachers' union. He used these to inform his policy influence and made certain changes to the operations of the education system across the country that begun to bear fruit.

We in this space have issued commendations for the improved start of the school year under his tenure, and principals have been very vocal that there have been more timely disbursement of subvention and other funds to facilitate preparatory and operational activities at their plants.

These gains must be maintained and ought not to be allowed to depart with the changing of the guard.

The civil servants who gave operational success to the policy directives and pet projects introduced by Mr Reid to better the system that serves the children of Jamaica must hold themselves to the same standard — and be held to that standard by ministry officials.

The start of the 2019/20 school year is weeks away and the nation's students ought not to get the short end of the stick.

Textbooks and other learning materials are to be delivered on time, new furniture and repairs to old ones must be effected, and school supplies are to be in place in sufficient quantities before the September start, as in recent years.

What's more, allocations for the varied school programmes, including the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education and the Career Advancement Programme, must be delivered to institutions prior to first ring of the school bell.

These were successes championed by the now-disgraced Mr Reid and they must be sustained for the good of all stakeholders. We have seen too often things slipping into the comfortable old ways when they are not defended.

We watch to see the outcome of the allegations that have been laid against Mr Reid. In the meantime, we acknowledge that the good he did good at the ministry must not be eroded, being careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Systems must be made to work and their efficiency must not be predicated on who sits in the chair. The positive educational outcomes for our students depend on this.

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