The following Op-Ed was released on April 3, by Marcus Jones, Approved Candidate for Constituency 19 (Pembroke West) – One Bermuda Alliance…
It has been two years since the Ministry of Education launched its publication ‘Parish Primary School Decisions’ recommending that the West End Primary School along with seven others be closed.
What once stood as a beachhead against racial segregation and served as a memorial to those who braved discrimination to educate thousands of Black students through the years, will be left on the ‘ash heap of history’.
Since this announcement, the residents of Sandys Parish have been in a state of shock, bewilderment and anger by a decision made by a political organization that touts itself as the people’s party. This is not your granny’s PLP folks, not by a long shot.
The Ministry of Education will argue that their team went through great pains to devise a matrix designed to objectively use a set of criteria resulting in a score that will determine those schools that did not meet physical and locational attributes be closed. A declining birth rate, a mass exodus of students transferring out of the public school system into private schools and the stampede of families emigrating to foreign shores escaping the ravages of an island whose cost of living under this PLP Government has become unbearable for the average Bermudian.
In this publication there was this statement: ‘Honouring and preserving the history and legacy of primary schools will be a critical part of the community-involved process of transition and implementation to the new model…’
There is little evidence that ‘history and legacy’ were used as part of the criteria because if it were, the decision to dump a school into mothballs that is considered the oldest school in the western hemisphere that has educated a historically disadvantaged race since its inception in 1869 would never have happened.
Some offer an alternative to this plan which involves transferring the name ‘West End Primary’ to the physical buildings that sit on the property known as Somerset Primary school. Seriously!For those of you who think that this is a welcomed compromise, close your eyes and imagine this…The ‘Berkeley Institute’ painted on Saltus Grammar’s school buildings.
There would be riots in the streets.
Let us go deeper. If the OBA Government decided to close West End Primary School all of Sandys Parish, three generations of former students would be out in full force on the grounds of Cabinet demanding the head of the Minister of Education and Parliament would be overwhelmed with protestors.
But in the words of that famous comedian Chis Rock, we in Bermuda suffer from selective outrage. This issue is above politics and there should be a show of support for those protestors that are fighting to keep this school open regardless of the party you are affiliated with.
Finally, let us laud the West End Warriors who have mobilized the community to take a stand in favor of keeping this school open. A combination of town hall meetings, petitions and an island-wide motorcade have been organized to raise the awareness of this injustice.
Yesterday it was the Watlington House, a building that has ties with Mary Prince, a Bermuda National Hero, demolished. Today, it is West End Primary school facing closure. Tomorrow, who knows, maybe if the enrollment at the high school level drops dramatically the Government may have to close Berkeley Institute!
The demolition/closing of these historically Black institutions would not be so alarming if the executioners were not a political party whose number one agenda has been and remains Black nationalism from its inception in 1963.