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Editorial: Shining the light on Prickly Pole

Published:Friday | September 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM

It may be true that Mrs Vinette Robb-Oddman did not physically place any of the 19 children of Prickly Pole Primary and Infant School in a bus to take them to the scene of a political protest in St Ann last week.

But as chairman of the School's board, Mrs Robb-Oddman holds the awesome responsibility of ensuring that there is no tinkering with the teaching/learning process in the school, and further that children are not used as pawns in adults' political games.

Rattled by the sacking of Mrs Robb-Oddman by education minister Ronald Thwaites, residents again took to the streets and have threatened to keep their children at home if she is not reinstated. Demonstrating against her firing and saying that Mrs Robb-Oddman did nothing wrong exposes the rank ignorance of these residents in Prickly Pole and perhaps throughout the wider Jamaica, about the concept of leadership and the responsibility it carries.

There are many glaring examples. Recall that when the Riverton City dump blazed uncontrollably, sending toxic fumes into the atmosphere, blame was deflected from the head of the solid waste agency because "she did not start the fire", implying that she ought not be held accountable for that outcome.


Minister accepted no responsibility

When the nation was reeling from the debilitating effects of the chik-v epidemic, for which the country was not properly prepared, the minister of health accepted no responsibility.

Contrast these with the action of Volkswagen (VW) CEO Martin Winterkorn who resigned his post Wednesday, less than a week after it was found out that VW had secretly installed software into 11 million diesel-powered cars to cheat emission tests. Winterkorn, who says he was clueless about the deceptive action, demonstrated that if something egregious happens under his watch he is fully responsible. Surely, there are lessons to be learnt from the CEO's example.

There is no doubt that Jamaica's progress has been seriously retarded by the deadbeat non-achievers who are not held to high standards of performance or accountability. Persons fail miserably at their jobs, (private and public) yet are allowed to bask in their tenure.


Not acquainted with NEC handbook

And even though efforts have been made by the National Council of Education (NEC) to reform the system of school board appointments, it is clear that Mrs Robb-Oddman is a political activist who could not have acquainted herself with the NEC's handbook which sets out the legal authority and responsibility of school boards in ensuring that students get quality education.

Who says that unabashed cronyism and partisan considerations have been eliminated from that appointment process?

Prickly Pole, a small farming community of about 1,000 grabbed the headlines after it emerged that the protesters left in their trail a dying 11 year-old, who had collapsed while preparing to leave on the bus. The residents of Prickly Pole blew their whistle and rallied the crowd to their protest without Akella Lewis. The cause of her death has not yet been revealed and while we cannot ascribe blame to anyone, we find the action of the protestors repellent.

This is not to say the school community does not have legitimate concerns about the expenditure of money designated for school repairs. It seems that a vigorous investigation is required. And while the school board is correct to seek answers from the Member of Parliament it should not require the involvement of children. Mrs Robb-Oddman and her kind need to develop a sense of what is right and what is wrong.