The following was submitted as an open letter to Premier David Burt, Education Minister Diallo Rabain and Curtis Dickinson of the Education Board by Dr Muriel Wade-Smith dated October 12, 2017.
“Many Black Bermudians believed that our social, political and racial problems would be appropriately addressed because of the people skills’ of former Premier Sir John Swan. Now they are placing their hope on ‘a fresh young face’ (or faces) with similar people skills. They would love to believe that our educational failures would disappear simply by removing a permanent secretary who lacks people skills.
“Well, all of us need to recognize that the ‘people skills’ of the former Premier have created an increasing under-educated Black underclass completely unprepared to participate in our sophisticated, prosperous economy because of government policies.
“As long as both the political and economic power is ‘conserved’ as it has been and Blacks continue to be dependent on Whites economically, it is absurd to believe that merely changing faces or personalities will make any difference whatsoever.” Dr Eva Hodgson in ‘Let Justice Flow – A Black Woman’s Struggle for Equality in Bermuda’ (1999).
First of all, let me state how disappointed I am. I sent the Premier and the Honourable MP Rabain a congratulatory card and my wish list for quality education in Bermuda, shortly after the landslide victory at the last General Election. I also sent similar cards to at least 15 younger Progressive Labour Party members. The only person who responded was the Hon Scott Simmons. I met the Hon Jamahl Simmons in the street last week and he thanked me for sending the card.
My heart continues to be deeply troubled by the state of public education in this country. I had the good fortune to work under the leadership of Professor Dr Kenneth Robinson, Bermuda’s first Black Chief Education Officer. It was during Dr Robinson’s tenure that the Bermuda Public School System experienced such great success. Our students graduated from high school and could hold their own anywhere in the world. He was the model of a competent, capable and committed Education Officer. He demanded high standards and went beyond the call of duty to achieve quality to do well.
Sad to say, that from 1976 until the present, I have seen a steady decline in the quality of leadership at the helm of education. The one redeeming factor that occurred during this time is the fact that Dr Joseph Christopher produced the book, ‘A Random Walk Through The Forest – Reflections on the History of Education in Bermuda From the Middle of the 20th Century’.
Consequently, it has become obvious to me that the only way to improve the system is to restructure the system. You cannot expect the people who perpetuated a white supremacist system to now turn around and make it a successful one. Dr Robinson knew that the system was designed against Black children and he governed himself accordingly to improve the lot of Black children in this country. Unfortunately, some of the other leaders appear to be unaware of what Hilliard advised: “The only way to defeat white supremacy is to first become conscious of it.”
Dr Wade notes in the Foreward to Hilliard’s book, ‘SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind’, said: “There is something dreadfully wrong with an education/socialization process that leaves us ignorant of our past, strangers to our people, apes of our oppressors and creatures of habitual shallow thought and trivial values.”
I have asked myself: “If Dr Robinson were here today, what are some of the things that would be different in the Ministry of Education?
Concerns About the Ministry of Education – My Perceptions
- How does someone, Mrs Lisa Swan, who has a Master’s degree get promoted to be the Supervisor of Psychologists who all have PhD’s? Was there cronyism, nepotism, favourtism or even one’s personal vendetta used in the appointment process?
- Read Chapter 4 – Discrimination by Exclusion in my book entitled, ‘Let Justice Flow – A Black Woman’s Struggle for Equality in Bermuda (1999). This is when our curriculum woes began. Only two people in the Ministry have the international qualifications to develop curriculum. Dr Llew advanced to become a Director. Do we follow the money trail and find out how some careers were built up on the backs of our children.
- Dr Llew Simmons – Read pages 86 – 88 in my book, ‘Let Justice Flow – A Black Woman’s Struggle for Equality in Bermuda’. I had my doctorate. They held the job open for him until he completed his doctorate. We still do not have a relevant, identity curriculum with cultural integrity, infused with the Bermuda content and the African content. Take note of who interviewed the applicants, the Senior Officer for Curriculum and Instruction who had a Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling.
- Dr Gina Tucker – she has qualifications as a Curriculum Coordinator and was hired as such, I believe it was during her tenure that the Ministry brought in a white non-Bermudian to do curriculum development for a predominantly black school system. She has filled various positions within the Ministry. We still do not have a relevant, identity curriculum with cultural integrity infused with the Bermuda content and the African content.
- Mrs Lisa Marshall – I believe she has a Master’s degree in History. That has been the trend. Applicants who had a Master’s degree with a concentration in history were usually appointed to the post. Mrs Marshall served three years as a principal. three years as the Education Officer for Social Studies and now she is an Assistant Director. We still don’t have a relevant, identity curriculum with cultural integrity infused with the Bermuda content and the African content.
- Usually, principals are rewarded with positions in the Ministry because of some outstanding work that they have done, like turn around a weak school. Somehow, it seems to be the opposite in Bermuda. The question has been asked: “Has the Ministry become a dumping ground for failed principals? Don’t we have three principals in this category? Dr Gina Tucker, Dr S Durham-Thompson and Mrs L Robinson.
- Most jurisdictions abroad hire people with doctorates in the Central Office. Why have we chosen to lower the standard and place people with Master’s degrees in the Ministry? Shouldn’t people with doctorates demonstrate a higher level of exposure, expertise, experience and higher level course work?
These are my perceptions and this helps me to cement my thinking about the way to improve education in this country is to engage in a restricting process.
On a personal note, it has been very painful for my family and I to watch as lesser qualified persons were given job positions. People like Dr Hodgson and I have been ignored, marginalized, defamed, demeaned, belittled and crippled economically. How do you think I feel when I have to tell my grandchildren that I can’t help them as much as I would like to because I have been denied positions because Bermuda is a racist country fueled by institutionalized racism by whites and internalized racism by blacks.
It doesn’t matter how many times you say: “Putting Bermudians First”. I believe it means all other Bermudians besides Dr Hodgson and me. I’ll believe it when you do something to rectify the insults, injustices and indignities meted out to two of the highest, qualified black women in this country. And you expect the education system to be successful. I have declared under a GOD OF FREEDOM, A GOD OF JUSTICE AND A GOD OF EQUALITY IF THERE IS NO JUSTICE, THEN THERE WILL BE NO EDUCATION REFORM.
My sincere prayers are with you to undertake such an overwhelming task. God holds you accountable and He will give you the direction to do what is right for the black children of Bermuda.
Thanks for your attention!
Born To Teach, Born to Win,
Muriel M Wade-Smith, PhD
- Feature Photo Courtesy of DCI