For God’s Sake – Restructure Bermuda’s Education System!

“Thus, the behaviour of the oppressed is a prescribed behaviour, following as it does the guidelines of the oppressor.

“The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom.” Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paul Freire.

Dr Freddie Evans

After I finished writing my last article entitled, ‘Why Only Dr Freddie Evans?’ a deep settled peace, contentment, empowerment and excitement flooded my soul.

“Hallelujah! That’s it! A systemic problem!”

I wrote a note to Dr Hilliard’s daughter Dr Nefertari Zo. She lives in Miami. I said: “I am so happy because it has become more distinctly clearer to me what was God’s purpose for my life in Bermuda. God has ordained me to rescue our children from a racist, colonial system of education that is designed to destroy black children. I realized that for the past 20 years I have been fighting for quality education for black children in this country.”

Dr Nefertari Zo replied: “You are truly a Light! Your heart is in the right place, plus the Creator has blessed you with wisdom and ability beyond measure! Your book was such an inspiration to me and I often reflect on your fortitude and dedication to purpose when I feel challenges. What a blessing that you have NIA – PURPOSE!”

Dr Kenneth Robinson – An Example of a Competent, Committed and Capable Chief Education Officer

  • Dr Kenneth Robinson worked his way up through the ranks to become the first Black Chief Education Officer from 1970 – 1976. He served as Principal of Harrington Sound Primary School. He received his doctorate from Harvard University. His unpublished dissertation was entitled, ‘History of Education in Bermuda’, (1952),
  • He dedicated himself to education and served as a role model and mentor to many. He was President of the Bermuda Teachers Union. He served during a period known as the ‘Fighting Forties’ and helped put the union on a stronger footing.
  • He left no stone un-turned in ensuring the improvement of facilities for our children. He was a strong advocate for teacher training and professional development and fought for higher salaries for the island’s underpaid teachers. He started putting his children in any public school in Bermuda.
  • Many teachers testify about the personal interest he took in them and challenged them to aspire to higher heights. Somehow, he seemed to thrive on the brilliance, exuberance and vitality of the up and coming younger people and he did everything in his power to help them achieve their goals.
  • In my book, ‘Let Justice Flow’, I wrote: “What a surprise! I was successful in my application for secondment. I believe that Dr Kenneth’s foresight and vision to break down the former barrier that had existed challenged him to recommend that I be seconded. I was a pioneer in this area because America was unheard of territory as a place for secondment for a British-system graduate with Canadian training.”
  • He wrote ‘Heritage’, which documents the accomplishments of black Bermudians during the pre-post Emancipation period was a realization of his commitment to write blacks into the history of Bermuda.

Dr Eva Hodgson: How Decision-Making Blacks Treat Other Blacks

  • In 1999, Dr Eva Hodgson wrote the Foreword to my book, ‘Let Just Flow’. She states: “She (Muriel) describes how at great sacrifice to both herself and her family she acquired her BSc in 1971, which was followed by a MEd in 1974. In 1978 she earned her PhD in educational administration with an emphasis on curriculum and supervision.
  • Three years later her disillusionment set in because of her idealistic expectations of justice that was not forthcoming from Black decision makers. The expectations surpassed the reality. She had kept the Ministry and the Department informed of her progress and Dr Kenneth Robinson had written glowing references of encouragement.
  • She describes how in a TV interview she had expressed a desire to share her recently gained expertise in curriculum with her country particularly since she was a pioneer in Bermuda in the field of curriculum development.
  • Muriel Wade’s experiences are not merely personal and anecdotal; they represent the manner in which Blacks concerning others in the Black community were making decisions. How was their behaviour any different from that of the Whites practicing racism?
  • The White community had routinely and unabashedly appointed less-qualified Whites rather than some more qualified Blacks. Black decision makers were now doing the same thing. It was certainly more personal behaviour because the reasons for this discrimination were more personal.
  • This rejection by those Blacks making the decisions at this period in Bermuda’s history was a stinging form of abuse to this hard-working, certified and qualified educator. None of those in the Ministry making the decisions concerning the author’s professional career had a doctorate in anything. Did the higher qualifications of this obviously ambitious Black woman prove a threat to them?
  • The author’s experiences and her response to them must be seen as against the background of the Black experience generally. Some blacks have challenged institutional racism, and the abuse of power that undergirds it, as well as the indignities that it inflicts on us. Some blacks have made compromises. Those who have compromised have sometimes done well for themselves individually, but it has been those who challenged the system that have made progress for the entire community.
  • Whether we challenge or compromise is probably preordained by our individual and personal values. Muriel challenged the system and paid the price.
  • The values of the author grew out of the values of a segregated Black community. Muriel Wade-Smith expresses those values when she wrote, “All I had done was adhered to the advice and followed the examples of my sterling, thoroughbred Bermudian and West Indian teachers, who had not only instilled in me the desire to learn, but had also impressed upon me the importance of aspiring to the highest heights I undertook.
  • It was because of the late Dr Kenneth Robinson held the same values – and he and his family had made some of the same sacrifices in order for him to achieve the same heights, as he worked to acquire his own doctorate – that he could encourage her as he did. By this time Dr Robinson was not one of those at the helm. There was a new Pharoah who knew not Joseph – or Muriel!
  • But with the erosion of government-sponsored segregation there has also come an even greater erosion of the values that had sustained the Black community and made them a gracious people despite the abuse of power inflicted on them by institutional racism. She, as a black person, was not alone in the frustration and great indignation she felt at the treatment inflicted on her by other Blacks.
  • The single-minded struggle for the goal of social justice was replaced by compromise for the individual social status and personal integration with Whites. Respect for he example-setting older generation and their values were replaced by respect for a very individualistic younger generation and their much higher salaries. For the upwardly mobile Blacks the sense of community, common purpose, and pride in the success of their fellowmen was no longer a priority. Individualism and competitiveness existed among Blacks. The abuse of power that had undergirded institutional racism now became the mark of those decision-making Blacks with power over other Blacks.
  • It was around 1998 that the author began to see her personal experience in terms of the broader society. She emphasizes her perceptions of the evil of colonialism and racism. The root of much of the evil was certainly in racism. But Black decision makers and upwardly mobile Blacks who have experienced racism have to take responsibility for their own abuse of power and the corruption that is engendered that went beyond racism.
  • They, as trendsetters and role models within the Black community have to accept their responsibility in the progressive deterioration of the Black community and the consequent physical violence that has followed.
  • Young and old need to read ‘Let Justice Flow’ so that they will get some understanding of how this shift of values in the Black community has been so disastrous for all of us. It has been disastrous first for the Black community and ultimately for the White community as well.
  • A people who were once determined to achieve excellence by their own efforts, sacrifice and denial now have among them those who have become sycophants, dependent on others for their success. Compromise, denial, and even hypocrisy are the tools of upward mobility rather than just excellence in education. Success is no longer to be earned by hard work and personal sacrifice. It is to be bestowed by patronage for being an approved “nice” Black person.
  • They need to ask, “How would our society be different if our decision makers, including our Black decision makers, were to behave as the author assumed that they would? How would your personal experience and those around you be different? Would there be as much anger and violence among the less powerful and the alienated in the Black community if there was more integrity and justice among the more powerful, the decision makers within the Black community?

Dr Freddie Evans, Commissioner of Education

“Evans ousted as Commissioner”, “Evans shocked at any talk of dismissal”, “Evans hits back over dismissal”, “Ministry silent on Evans reports”, “Bureaucrats Commit about turn on Evans’ job”.

What do these headlines tell us about the state of leadership at the helm of Bermuda’s Education System?

It is a systemic problem. Something happens when some Blacks are put in the decision-making position. For some reason there is the abuse of power and corruption is engendered, some blacks take on the role of the oppressor and oppress others. In many instances, they perpetuate the system that is designed against their fellow black men. Corruption sets in and we have cronyism, favourtism, nepotism, a lack of accountability and even personal agendas?

Of course, Dr Evans wants justice? Let me bring to his attention the fact that this is the same system that was around in 1978 and 1980 when Dr Hodgson and I returned to this country and were demeaned, belittled, subjected to insults, injustices and indignities and also in the process crippled economically. Nothing has changed. It is the same system that makes you feel that you have been treated unfairly and unjustly.

Who was held accountable in 1978 and 1980? Will someone be held accountable for your situation? Shouldn’t justice be served to Dr Hodgson and me? In 2008, Hugo Frost of the Foreign Affairs Office said that it is a matter for the Bermuda Government. In spite of writing several Premiers, it seems that they lack the grit, the gumption, the guts and the will to take the bull by the horns and make a fair just and right decision.

Bermudians, we need a more fair, just and equitable system. 

In 2013, in his book entitled, ‘A Bird’s Eye View’, Dr Vincent Williams recommends that the Bermuda Department of Education be replaced with a new National Board of Education.

In 2009, Dr Joseph Christoper in his book ‘A Random Walk Through the Forest – Reflections on the History of Education in Bermuda From the Middle of the 20th Century’, Dr Christopher recommended following the Education Planning Team 1988 proposal for school boards.

Parents, Principals, Teachers, Students, Taxpayers and Stakeholders, we need to speak up about the quality of education we want for our children. Continuing in this present manner is dangerous and leads to doom.

Born to Teach,

Born to Win,

Muriel M Wade-Smith, PhD