Show me the tablet

Our country does not lie on a vast oil deposit. If it does have one then we either haven’t found it or somebody is very good at keeping it well hidden. We do not export massive amounts of goods and notwithstanding all the talk about the gaming industry and tourism there is only so much you can “earn” to justify spending. We are not even a diligent country in the fashion of Norway that invests most of the money it gets from its oil deposits into a fund for future generations. Inevitably when elections come round even though we may be completely drunk with partisan euphoria the crux of the matter will (or should) always be the same: “Show me the money”.

The tablet wars late last week had a strange effect on me. It was one thing having pointed out for a very long time the atrocious “race to the bottom” that the PLPN dichotomy signifies. It was another to see the manner in which this tongue-in-cheek brazen approach to having a go at insulting the voter’s intelligence has been developed. All the elements coincided – you had the auction of promises and the typical partisan reaction from both sides of our Lilliputian gap. Without batting an eyelid both parties had promised millions of euros of electronic equipment to our younger generations and both parties claimed a monopoly on this move being part of some wider education plan.

Wider plan my foot. Suffice it to say that the Malta Union of Teachers was far from impressed by this tomfoolery. How bloody typical. Remember this is the government that followed our decision to get into the EU but that failed to factor a course for translators and interpreters at University in the run up to membership. How is that relevant? It’s relevant because it is one thing to shoot ambitious plans off the cuff and another thing to actually be in a position to implement them. Ask Manuel Delia.

Before you run away with some twisted idea, this is not an amish attack on all things technological. Of course technology is the future but that is not the point. The point is that both parties very evidently treat this tablet business superficially. Rent-a-pundits will link to a single article in a Microsoft Public Network magazine and will tell you that this is proof that the PN’s tablet proposal has concrete background. Sure. With all due respect to the Mark Azzopardi who has been interviewed in the article I have my doubts how much a Miss World style wish at the end of an article in a Microsoft promotional e-zine to boot can be taken as “background to a government policy” costing 25€ million of taxpayers’ money.

Not to mention of course the fact that if this were really the background then I would begin to worry about how the government already is looking into one particular company (Microsoft) and then I would begin to ask more questions – specifically who represents Microsoft in Malta and who would stand to gain from a deal that puts Microsoft’s learning programme in every school?

As for Labour. Don’t get me started. Their approach is even more bungled and transparent when it comes to the lack of planning. We are lumped with another “remedial class”. Do you remember all the bla bla about consultation with social partners? Do you remember how open Labour is even on the social networks? Well, have I got news from you. They were not listening. Had they been listening to the educators of this country they would have known the immense logistical mountain that faces the schools should the tablet in every hand become a reality. What of LSAs and teachers who suddenly have four or five kids in class with some error on their tablet? Does Labour know that there is no logisitical IT support for every school? From what I am told even LSA coordination is bad enough with government schools having one coordinator for ten schools. That’s without the tablets.

This is not a case of a country not being ready for development and progress. This is a case of a country not affording the truckloads of bullshit that are being heaped upon it daily in this election. The worst thing about it all is not that “Everybody lies” but rather that “everybody is eager to swallow the lies” so long as it’s their party feeding them the bull.

J’accuse challenges both parties to admit that their tablet promise is the result of the drunken euphoria and passion that this election has brought about. We challenge both parties to take back their empty promise and instead to promise a planned introduction of a proper IT project – one that takes into account all participants in the equation, all cogs in the wheel – like teachers for example.

Tablets for all? Thanks, but no thanks.