The admission by the Ministry of Education that almost 50,000 students have never logged on to the Ministry’s learning platform – and are therefore being left behind by Keith Rowley and the PNM Government — is heartbreaking. It is truly an education scandal.
One would assume that the whole nation would feel similarly.
However, this exclusion and discrimination against our children has been the deliberate, heartless policy of the PNM, motivated by pure political spite and pettiness, regardless of whom it hurts.
The visionary programme ten years ago of distributing laptops to every student put Trinidad and Tobago in the vanguard of the world. We were recognised globally as leaders. Our inclusive agenda of equality shrunk the digital and class divide. The poorest children from the most remote areas of the country received the exact same access to the world of information as did the most privileged children. This has always been our goal.
The universal laptop programme was designed to get our children and our country ready for the future.
That future is now here.
But under Keith Rowley, we have fallen from global leader to global vagrant.
Keith Rowley’s and the PNM’s spite and petty politics sought to tear down the programme from its beginning, just to avoid saying that the PP Government did anything good for the country. This was a lie, only for political gain, without a care for national welfare and the betterment of our children.
We had seen this before, unfortunately, when the PNM opposed the UNC’s policy of placing every single primary student in a secondary school. What rational person would ever think this was a bad policy? Only the irrational and spiteful Keith Rowley and the PNM could criticise such revolutionary reform.
In addition to the 50,000 students who have never logged on, thousands more who did initially attend virtual school fell off. This was because of poor or no connectivity, because they had to give back borrowed smartphones, or because they did not have supervision and support at home to keep them attending online classes.
Added to this is the assertion by the heads of Principals’ Associations that there are an unspecified number of students who may never return to school. Some have left to help supplement their families’ earnings. Other parents were forced to choose between working to support their families and staying at home to supervise their children.
This reminds us of the bad old days of the PNM’s Junior Sec and Senior Sec shift system, and those 20 percent of children at the bottom of the Common Entrance exam who weren’t placed in secondary school at all.
The UNC changed all that. Keith Rowley and the PNM are taking us back there.
Today, in the future that the UNC was preparing for, the Keith Rowley has mercilessly left students behind for almost a full year, even those writing their SEA or their CXC and CAPE exams. Their futures may be permanently destroyed by Keith Rowley and the PNM’s political spite and unwillingness to admit they have made a monumental mistake.
Even more of a betrayal is how so-called independent commentators and so-called scholars, and sometimes the media houses themselves, joined Keith Rowley and the PNM in condemning the laptop policy, for no rational reason. Indeed, if connectivity was a problem, or training, then taking away the laptops from the children was not the solution.
It is clear that many of these so-called independent commentators and so-called scholars just wanted to make the PP Government politically look bad. In hindsight, however, all right-thinking persons must now agree that it was the right policy, tragically reversed.
While we grieve the loss of a great educator, former Minister Clifton De Coteau, we also grieve the abuse of our children and destruction of their future by the spiteful Keith Rowley and the PNM and, sadly, the media, commentators and so-called scholars who enabled them.
Dr. Kirk Meighoo
Public Relations Officer