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Ruel Reid was allowed to do too much

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Dear Editor,

The revelations at the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) over the past weeks involving Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) and the embattled former minister of education, Ruel Reid, forced me into reflection on his behaviour prior to the allegations of corruption now swinging around his neck. This reflection has caused me to conclude that the teaching profession has failed this country.

We saw the reckless arrogance of Reid; we feigned stealthy outrage but never once called for his immediate resignation, using the convenient excuse that he came from among us.

I am not criticising the profession because l dislike it, but rather because I love it and want to see us rise above the perception that we are only good for salary negotiations.

While they are not the best examples of virtue, the Jamaican Bar and medical associations often exclude and distance themselves from members whose conduct and performance fall below established standards or whose behaviour has brought, or is likely to bring the respective professions into disrepute.

Even now that the prime minister, himself, has fired him the teaching profession has not condemned the allegations that gave rise to the sacking of Reid. And l know people are going to trip over themselves to offer the excuse that the matter may be heading to the courts, but there are tones and tenors that can be adopted, in principle, without incurring litigation.

Additionally, no one from the teaching profession called for the resignation or even a leave of absence of Professor Fritz Pinnock, even when damning allegations of corruption threatened to smear the integrity of that veritable CMU, and his perceived interference with the ongoing investigations.

I recall the litany of woes that Ruel Reid either manufactured, facilitated and/or encouraged with impunity before it all came to this:

1. Reid, without a thread of evidence, labelled teachers, principals and boards as corrupt extortionists.

2. He refused to acknowledge allegations of dengue infestations in schools.

3. He cancelled, without notice, critical Jamaica Teachers' Association meetings at which the Jamaica Teaching Council Bill should have been discussed before he rushed it with unholy haste through Parliament.

4. The former minister, in his unholy haste to make a name for himself, botched the implementation of a solid national assessment, the Primary Exit Profile (PEP).

5. Ruel Reid allegedly attempted to intimidate and muzzle lecturers who wrote articles that were not heaping praise on his leadership.

 

In addition to the above, there is a litany of inept decisions, actions and scandals under Reid's leadership, including allegations that he used state resources to bolster his candidacy in St Ann North Western, and which must be investigated.

From my observation:

1. There was a lack of resources for the efficient implementation of PEP. And the last-ditch islandwide tour to patch up the implementation, moments before children were due to sit the exams, allegedly cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

2. Reid dismantled National Products Limited for divestment and removed the Nutribun from schools without a reasonable alternative.

3. He offered no sustainable solution to chronic literacy and numeracy at both the primary and secondary levels of the school system whilst ramming down his critical-thinking PEP model.

4. There have been no new or revised academic benchmarks set for students at the secondary level, yet schools are instructed to retain students in school until they are at least 18 years of age.

5. Reid oversaw the stealthy dissolution of the National Council on Education (NCE).

6. There is alleged victimisation of principled educators who refused to support his actions.

7. There are still questions surrounding the dismissal of Permanent Secretary Maurice Smith, the 'mysterious' transfer of Senior Advisor Robert Miller from the ministry, the mysterious transfer of the junior minister from the ministry, and the 'transfer' of Permanent Secretary Dean-roy Bernard.

8. There are reports that watchdogs were set to troll teachers on social media.

9. Who could forget the comedy of errors of his funding formula for high schools?

10. And then there was that infamous tyrannical gag which expressly forbade anyone to criticise the minister that was circulated to the political ombudsman and purportedly to the NCE, which he had already dissolved.

 

It still is not clear whether Reid was on special leave, secondment, or a combination, from Jamaica College. Whichever way, it would be questionable under the Education Regulations 1980; only the minister can grant special leave to teachers. So, did he grant himself special leave? And if it is that he was on secondment, the period of secondment granted to teachers is two years, and an additional one year at the discretion of the permanent secretary, so under which policy or legislation did he obtain secondment up to five years?

Many teachers felt that his was the worst state of leadership that the ministry had ever seen. Reid, however, was essentially afforded a free ride and was only stopped as the allegations mounted.

We must never again allow anyone to treat the nation's teachers with the disdain that Reid did. And, equally, our teachers must never allow anyone free rein as minister of education.

 

Rayon Simpson, JP

Principal

Belmont Academy

Bluefields PO

Westmoreland