Pressured by tablets

Pressured by tablets

by Aretha P Willie

Thursday, September 24, 2020

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It is a recurring dream of mine that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information would be totally honest with the stakeholders, especially in the manner in which they communicate. It needs to be done in the simplest and most effective ways. The stakeholders need to be told that principals at the primary level are akin to Hydra, the nine-headed monster. We are the bursars, nurses, plant managers, drivers, secretaries, cooks, servers, etc, unlike my colleagues at the secondary level, who are given specialist personnel for most tasks. And now, procurement duties have been added to the ever-expanding roles. We are expected to do so much with very little support, resources, and attendant personnel.

I don't want to be a 'sore thumb'; not deliberately, but out of sheer conscience and experience, as a well-seasoned opinionated educator. Without fear or favour, I thoroughly reject the directives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information regarding my added role to procure tablets for the students at my institution. My competence and integrity are not at stake, but rather my sanity.

From the very moment that the announcement was made the school's telephone line has been burning up by parents calling to enquire when should they come in to sign for the tablets. They want my assurance that their four children who attend the institution will all be given tablets. A few of my parents have even physically visited the school to collect the promised item. The teachers want their children to be given tablets, too, as their recently 'gifted' tablets are for the execution of professional duties. Pressure pon me!

E-mail have been pouring in like torrential rainfall from countless companies be they big, small, new, and old offering every kind of tablet under the sun. From dirt cheap to high end. Pressure pon me!

Forgive me, but this is how I would have expected the conversation to progress. The ministry would have instructed school administrators to produce thoroughly vetted submission lists of the most vulnerable students in need of tablet support. After receiving the lists, the ministry's procurement unit would be mandated to source same and distribute to the school administrators. The administrators would be responsible for disbursement to the parents; signed and delivered.

Why is there a need to reinvent the wheel? All my teachers received their tablets without even a hiccup, using the mentioned protocol. Don't fix it if it is not broken!

I cringe when I envision the chaos that will emerge. From countless experiences with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the funding will be late and certainly inadequate. Picture this: I will submit a list with 85 names for tablet support, and the ministry will send funding to cover 50 tablets. Then, I will be forced to play Russian roulette with people's children. No doubt those who did not receive will accuse me of stealing and distributing tablets to my friends and cronies. No, thank you, Ministry. My sanity and integrity are worth far more than the impending disaster. Please allow the procurement unit to perform this task. I have more than enough responsibilities strategising how to outsmart COVID-19.

Let me know when the tablets are to be delivered, as I have already submitted my thoroughly vetted list.

PS: I am still awaiting the promised deep cleaning of our nine classrooms that were utilised in the recently held general election.

Aretha P Willie is a passionate educator, principal of George Headley Primary School, and a justice of the peace. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or

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