Stealing from a school is a near equivalent to robbing the poor box at a church. In other words, schools should be hallowed ground.
Accordingly, we regard as an act of sacrilege the theft of materials from the John Gray High School construction site off Walkers Road in George Town. Security guards noticed three men skulking around a storage area on the site. When the guards approached, the men (as cowards tend to do) ran away, fleeing the scene in a white car.
We, of course, hope police are able to identify and arrest the miscreants, and then have them prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
That being said, the real crime that occurred at the John Gray construction site wasn’t the theft of copper wire and assorted sundry — but the fact that John Gray remains a collection of half-finished, abandoned structures, nearly eight years after officials broke ground on taxpayers’ “investment” of more than $54 million.
Though it is certainly significant, the amount of dollars spent can’t by itself be used to quantify the magnitude of the offense perpetrated by consecutive governments. Rather, we must look to other metrics, such as test scores, graduates’ proficiency in spoken and written English, college achievements, job placements, etc. … Any and all of which fall well short of what we expect, and what our children deserve.
However, if you prefer to consider matters from a “value for money” perspective, the Cayman Islands public education system spends far too much money to buy far too much illiteracy, in terms of the resources put into the system, on a per-pupil basis, compared to the results that the system produces.
Now, we aren’t saying that all of Cayman’s public school graduates emerge from the educational system without an adequate education. On the contrary, plenty of those young people are industrious, intelligent and inquisitive. As a company, we consider ourselves fortunate to be able to employ such individuals.
The key word, however, is “individuals” — as in, they happen to be people who (usually with the support of conscientious family members) are motivated to succeed, regardless of the situation that is presented.
Unfortunately (and we even hesitate to use that word, because what we describe is the natural “bell curve” of human characteristics), not all of our young sprouts are hardy enough to thrive in such hostile circumstances. Many, in order to cultivate their own potential, require an atmosphere more conducive to growth and development.
While we as a society have little control over children’s home environments, we do have the ability to determine what their daily experience is like when they reach school — which should be, as we stated above, a sanctuary for learning.
Our point is not that all would be well with public education in Cayman (or even, necessarily, any better) if the John Gray project had been completed. The shininess of a school’s physical facade has little to do with the quality of teaching and learning that goes on within the classroom walls.
We find ourselves returning to the example of the financially catastrophic high schools project for a couple of reasons:
- The vast amount of money, resources and attention that government has squandered on the construction project could have been invested elsewhere, more wisely and efficaciously.
- The government’s mismanagement of the high schools construction project is a highly visible analogy for the government’s mismanagement of the futures of class after class of Caymanian high school graduates.
The second point is especially important because once ill-educated students leave the confines of the school system, the threat is that they fall into the obscurity of unemployability. Disillusioned, idle and perhaps impoverished, they re-surface as assailants of the society to which they were never prepared to contribute. That is, as criminals.
Who knows? Perhaps whoever is responsible for the theft of materials at John Gray would not have thought fit to steal from schools as adults, if they had been better served by schools as students.