A tense, often heated, meeting of Constituency 36 – Sandy’s North residents and many from the three surrounding constituencies Thursday evening had the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) reinforce its intention to close West End Primary School, in favour of maintaining Somerset Primary, as part of the Government’s education reform process.
In attendance at the gathering was Minister of Education Diallo Rabain, who further stamped the move to dismantle the historic Black institution, in favour of its formerly segregated, Whites-only, neighbouring school, as a done deal, with his ministry having no plans toward changing its stance.
Minister Rabain noted the consultation period to have well passed, with his department, now focused on informing the local population of how changes to the public education system will affect and, hopefully, improve learning for the Island’s youth.
“The consultation started in 2020 and was concluded in June 2021,” said the Minister, who has consistently defended the primary school changes, insisting them to be the best way forward. “We are now in the process of coming out, so that we can educate the people on what it is we’re doing to effect education reform and getting comments from them.
“Of course, we’ve had conversation about what particulart schools have been chosen and why one was chosen over another.
“But, what we want to get across, is that we’re talking about what’s best for our children, what’s best for moving Bermuda forward, so that we can have a world class education system, that will attract persons to come into the public school system.
“So, that’s what we will continue to do, as we have these meeting up and down the Island.”
As has become a frequent aspect of protests launched by a group referring to itself as ‘West End Warriors for Legacy’, which has long-time PLP stalwart and recently honoured educator, Ellen-Kate Horton and Cecille Snaith-Simmon, the mother of PLP MP Jamahl Simmons, a prominent PLP MP, as prime leaders, undisguised threats of votes being withheld were voiced by several of those contained within the western PLP stronghold.
Nevertheless, Attorney General Kathy Lynn Simmons, the member representing the constituency, voiced support for both the tabled reform policy and her Cabinet comrade, the assumed inference being that the ruling party was willing to risk incurring whatever fallout might be displayed at the next general election.
“Speaking generally, in terms of the efforts the Minister of Education has made to inform the community, I think he’s done a great job,” said Ms Simmons, who replaced former MP Michael Scott, as the district representative in the 2020 General Election. “He will never be able to satisfy the whole demographic, but what he tries to do is lend more understanding.
“This meeting was about education reform and I think the Minister was able to get his messaging through.”
She acknowledged the group of West End loyalists to have somewhat derailed the night’s planned discussions, by their insistence on a reversal of the planned school closure, yet added there to be many who welcomed the shift.
“Unfortunately, we got a bit distracted from that,” she said. “And, if we could spend more time discussing the actual reform and we’ll come back to that …
“But, at the end of the day, the Minister and the government have supported the position as one in the best interest of our children.
“If that changes due to efforts done by the community, then it changes.
“What’s interesting that was brought forth in the meeting is the diverse nature of the community, where there are those that support the move and those that don’t.
“So, I think it’s necessary for the Minister to have an objective bench-mark to make his decision. “But, I can say, hand to heart, that their voices have been heard. “If the outcome is not what they want I expect the community to rally behind the kids and do what’s in their best interest.”
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