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The GHS cell phone issue; Father’s questions, implications and lessons

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Fri, Jul 15, 2011

Editor: The recent Girls’ High School Cell Phone issue will not go away soon; as there are implications and lessons to be learnt from it. As universally agreed, the Headmistress of the institution did the right thing when she enforced the rule, being impartial, and, therefore, maintaining the institution and her own integrity.{{more}}

The father who questioned if the rules have been sanctioned ought to have been told by the present Permanent Secretary, that the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education ordered by way of memoradum that “no cell phones should be in schools”. PS Baker should have also informed the Prime Minister that the memo has not been revoked by her or the Ministry of Education. Thus rules consistent with it are legitimate, reasonable, and authentic – And when applied impartially, they pass all of the tests.

Can a father ask a question relative to his child’s discipline? Yes! Should the father’s/prime minister’s child be punished, the way others fathers’ children have been punished, once they broke the same rules? Yes! Otherwise you will have chaos! Should rules be upheld irrespective of colour, class, creed, race, and positional power? Yes! Would every father/parent with children in school call the PS? Would she or he immediately respond and say ‘change the rules’? Certainly not! I wonder what will happen if 10,000 fathers call the PS daily to enquire of school rules!

‘The Permanent Secretary is Administrative Head of the MOE, and the PM simply invoked the bureaucracy to have his issue ‘addressed’.’

Several implications rush at us! We are quickly becoming a state that has no regard for discipline! Do we prefer to undermine the authority of the Headmistress, school, Ministry, and by extension Education System, to satisfy the selfish goal of any one individual, social group, or clique? Should the GHS place the interest of a Prime Minister’s child, who has another few months in school, over the consistency, fairness, impartiality, etc, which has made the institution of more than 100 years one of excellence? Do we want to bring discipline at our most prestigious girls’ school equivalent to that which stood out at The Dr JP Memorial School, in Kingstown, a few years ago? Or should the school’s Headmistress do like the Commissioner of Police and say that this is a ‘special’ student, so do not apply the rule? Remember, discipline is at stake here! A police force which does not hire anyone with a criminal record reinstated three police men, each with a criminal record. Remember, the Minister of National Security, who happens to be a father, did not object to the criminals being in the police ranks.

Do we like the breakdown of discipline which we see throughout the school system and education system by extension? Well, let us attempt to change good rules, and universally acceptable rules every time they are broken by a father’s child, who happens to be the prime minister! We are mashing up the entire education system when we send mixed and inconsistent signals to our children, parents, and educators. Most strong/weak teachers will ‘hands off discipline’, since they do not want the stress that the GHS Headmistress is enduring. They prefer to live in peace and let inconsistency, unfairness and unprofessional judgement reign.

Another important implication of this sorry saga is that there is no value and/or respect of high ups for professional judgement. For example, no manager in a critical section of the government service will risk his career, post, or stability by differing with the PM, even when he/she is right.

The Ministry clearly has a number of good lessons to be learnt from this incident. The MOE should learn that best practices, which are embedded in law and practice, should be universally applied. The GHS rules re: Examinations should be fully adapted in all Secondary Schools, especially from Forms Three to Five. The MOE should also insist that schools enforce the telephone rules sent in the 2003/2004 memorandum, which bans cell phones from schools. The Ministry should also learn that you do not punish those who are doing the best things, and are consistent in their application of rules. Adapt what Mrs Bowman is doing, even if you don’t want to applaud her for it. They should also learn that you do not sacrifice 100 years of excellence, for a super, egoistic moment, in the twilight. The Ministry should also seek more persons like Mrs Bowman to head institutions. They should also consider asking her to take up the PS position, since there would have been no issue! Bowman as PS would have told the PM/father what the MOE’s 2003/2004 memo says about cell phones, ‘story end’!

Let rules prevail! Let discipline prevail! Let the consequences of breaking rules prevail! God laid down rules in the Garden Of Eden for Adam and Eve to follow. Harsh as the penalty appeared to be, the penalty was applied! One pastor recently reminded us that ‘Love without truth is hypocrisy.’ The leadership of Girls’ High School cannot be accused of hypocrisy! They more seem to have exercised their authority with kindness and justice, something that God delighted in, according to Jerimiah 9:14.

Finally, let me again remind us that we must not sacrifice the integrity of our top institutions, school system, and compromise our integrity to please our new messiah!

Otto Sam