I took it upon myself to listen to the Minister of Education in Parliament yesterday. He talked for a long time, I liked everything he said.
He is working on a multitude of programs, creating a smart organization, nurturing learning, not just education, making structural changes, reducing staffers by one third, digitalizing the system, merging schools to achieve efficiency and opening new schools where needed, also remembering children of special needs. He is working on the availability of regional options in education, also determined to alleviate student debt.
He described a long list of challenges, and solutions, and seemed to be passionately forging ahead into a new era of enlightenment.
I talked to some insiders.
He is the best education minister to date, I heard, because he himself is educated, an intellectual, befitting a former clergyman. He was given a task, and he marches on, perhaps unaware that as a leader his job is to do absolutely nothing, but to move his people.
He is a worker bee on a mission, and he is busy, bursting with projects, which keeps him from managing the hive. And the hive is buzzing restlessly.
But according to the minister in his parliament address his hive has been brained-washed by AVP fake news items, blinded by a storm of misinformation, and instigated by a propaganda-machine that he likened to that of Nazi Germany and the Russian KGB.
He lost me there, but ok, we already said he was passionate, a man with super-strong convictions, preventing him from putting the shoe on the other foot, to hear what the others have to say.
He grew up as an adult, in a strict church hierarchy, a holy order in which everyone knows their place, and authority is unquestioned. It did not prepare him to deal with Simar, Skoa, Smoa and the likes, protectionist labor union, leery of change and suspicious of innovation.
The church is a Man’s World. Education is mostly the domain of women. And the leaders of the Labor Unions in Aruba are especially strong-minded and feminist.
“Houston, we have a problem.”
The minister explained in parliament yesterday that in the name of Good Governance his office should retain oversight, in charge of checks and balances, and as such it cannot be asked to also manage the public school system. He has been working on creating a separate entity to govern the public schools, and that way his office can maintain a supervisory role and comply with the norms of solid Good Governance.
Sounds good, but it does entail moving people around, rattling their confidence, evoking stress necessitating the laying of careful, effective groundwork, to EASE changes in.
These people management skills require expertise. Alas, our Minister of Education has little of that. Perhaps someone else in his office should be entrusted with that?
Moreover, the man is humble and often rumpled. No wonder. He rides his bike from Jamanota, to work in town, modeling the new norm in the name of usterity, and even speaks to the press with his silly yellow helmet on.
Hardly a power-dresser.
And that is another issue too.
When you dress like an authority, people treat you with respect. But our minister does not dress for success, he is totally oblivious of the power of fashion.
Perhaps his rumpled suit is interpreted as weakness, a man easy to railroad, push, and intimidate, in the power-struggle over education.
Education has power-struggles built in. I don’t know why. Probably because people FEEL so strongly about it.
Let’s break it down: Little experience negotiating with women, a novice at navigating a democratic, broad system, naïve in his approach to change, eager to accomplish his vision regardless of circumstances, socially awkward, idealistic, and on a personal level modest, and frugal.
I don’t know why I launched into psycho-babble, but he needs to be explained. He brings added-value to his job, and some of his inner glow, integrity and morality should rub off on the other ministers.
I was never a fan. But now that I explained him to myself, I empathize.