The Alexandra Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Justice Frederick Waterman was established by the Prime Minister as a means to resolve the long running conflict between former principal Jeff Broomes and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU). The Ministry of Education at the conclusion of the Inquiry transferred 18 teachers AND Jeff Broomes who was appointed principal of Parkinson School. Less than two years later Uncle Jeff is at the centre of another dispute at his latest school. It is too early for the fair minded to take sides even if the protagonists are the same.
In arriving at a just determination, when a plethora of evidence must be examined by a properly constituted tribunal, it is often best to decide first on what can be agreed on. In the Alexandra issue it is agreed – or appears – that the problems there started before the term of this DLP Government. However, when elected to government problems should be solved which you inherited, that is the nature of being elected to govern. So the problems despite their history must be solved by this administration.
In the first instance Prime Minister Freundel Stuart stood back and was criticised for so doing. With a cabinet consisting of Ministers with portfolios in charge of respective departments, they are expected to discharge their responsibilities. A Prime Minister should not be seen as a dictator, he must allow his ministers an opportunity to make decisions. When the problem of Alexandra appeared intractable the Prime Minister agreed to meet with BSTU and if the speech made by them after the meeting is to be believed, they were listened to. In politics being cordially welcomed and politely listened to does not always mean an agreement with your stated position.
The Prime Minister decided having listened to the complex issues involved, to go the route of a Commission Of Inquiry. Here (On BU) there was “some” disagreement with this course of action. However, this decision gave the electorate to whom the Government is ultimately responsible an opportunity to learn first hand of the issues involved and form an impression – on the plausibility of evidence – of the major players giving evidence before the Commission.
The wonderful sight of teacher and pupil reunited at the Alexandra School – Photo credit Barbados Advocate
He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough – Lao Tzu
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is defined as all “the final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time”. Can BU draw a parallel and define the well being of a country by the quality of key decisions made by the ‘leaders’ in a given period?
The debate which continues to gain traction in Barbados is about the Alexandra dispute and related issues. It has displaced discussion about the upcoming general election, and significantly, a conversation about the state of the economy. If one were to ask any educated Barbadian what issue should be occupying the attention of the country, the answer should be ‘managing the economy’. It does not mean that all the issues at play in the country should be ignored, just that the exigencies of now require priority planning how we allocate resources.
Tension at the Alexandra School has peaked and troughed since 2005, surely an indictment on the management system with oversight for education. Many problems currently being wrestled by the government have straddled both political parties and different personnel in the public service. What it exposes is a rotten core which drives decision making in Barbados.
Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart continues to guard the date for the next general election
To say one could not have seen it coming is an obvious understatement. So why now all the parlance?
A dinner table well set for disaster. The Alexandra farce we mean. To say this was unexpected is far from the truth. Talk about a blind manhorse trotting backwards…How could one be so daft to expect that two diametrically opposed individuals (as hostile as they were in 2012) be all a sudden in 2013, like New Year’s Babes, ..forgetful and forgiving, accepting any and all change? Would never happen. To have thought otherwise is an obvious exercise in folly. Now the present …..badly handled and far from a Simple Song.
The supposed conclusion to the long-running Alexandra debacle appears to have caused more problems than it would have solved. Some might argue, and I am tempted to agree, that the resolution imposed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) has solved nothing. It would appear that the PSC attempted to settle the internecine warfare that was being waged for years by awarding neither side a victory.
The cowardly solution has resulted in over twenty teachers, including all but one of Alexandra’s management team, being transferred and scattered throughout the Teaching Service. It has proven to be unpopular with a majority of those involved in this unsightly mess. Also, it would appear that the PSC did not consider or paid blatant disregard to the harm their actions would be inflicting on the students who are about to take examinations. The teachers will get over the effects of the transfers with time; but the harm inflicted on the children is potentially devastating on those 4th, 5th and 6th form students whose future could very well be affected.
The harm to the education system and the children aside, the justice system in this country could be irreparably damaged by the fallout from the ill-advised actions of the PSC. The Waterman Commission made recommendations for limited transfers, but unfortunately, the PSC went overboard and transferred/punished most, if not all, of the teachers that appeared before the commission of inquiry as witnesses.
Ronald Jordan reacts to his transfer to Alexandra – Image credit Nation
I wonder how many of those teachers, who assiduously canvassed for the Head to be “separated” from the school, thought that they too would be separated, and if they did, why did they fight with such alacrity [eagerness]?…I have only posed a question.
The general idea from the present Government’s perspective was to solve a major problem and this up to a point they have done. The main players are no longer at the school, the school has an opportunity to do what it is mandated to do…teach children and thus move on.
Many of the major participants will never be the force they once were and some at the end of careers, will be remembered for things they would rather forget.
First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me – Pastor Martin Niemoeller
They have come for Jeff Broomes, and as a trade unionist, I must speak out before they come for me. From the outset, let me state that I am not defending Broomes because I think that he is guiltless. In Barbados, everyone, even Jeff Broomes, is innocent until he pleads guilty or guilt is established after a duly constituted body makes that determination after hearing the evidence, and giving the accused the right to be heard. I am therefore concerned that the Public Service Commission (PSC) has taken steps against him, under the guise of a transfer, before it follows the rules in order to establish his guilt or innocence.
The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) has achieved its goal of separating the Principal from Alexandra School; but they have nothing to rejoice about when you consider the way it was done. I hope that the membership of the union is sensible enough to condemn the method that was adopted by the PSC. BSTU should vociferously disassociate itself from the denial of due process to Mr. Broomes. Even murderers who kill in front of witnesses are given the right to be heard before sentence is pronounced. In essence, he has fewer rights than a murderer.