Submitted by the Mahogany Coconut Think Tank/Watchdog Group
For some time, the society as a whole has been vehement in blaming our teachers for what many consider as deteriorating educational standards. Mahogany Coconut is of the view that such blame is unfounded and unfair. When we examine our educational system, we conclude that the vast majority of our teachers are competent and extremely professional. However, we do not subscribe to the view that they are poorly paid. Taking into consideration our resources, their salaries are comparable if not more attractive than those in many developing countries. We also suggest that our school plant, at all levels, is vastly superior to what obtains in many of our neighboring island states.
Since the mid 70’s, the collective DLP/BLP government, has systematically succeeded in damaging the image of our teachers and the general public has supported the DLP/BLP. As far back as the late 60’s and early 70’s, there have been clashes with prominent educators and our political leaders. The late and distinguished Dame Elsie Payne and Prime Minister Errol Barrow; the Glasgow affair at the Lodge School are two that stand out. Mr. Clyde Griffith, former BLP senator, once said that all teachers do is frequent rum shops. Former minister of Education Sir Louis Tull (BLP) lied on teachers by suggesting that they did not want to supervise the children during lunch. According to him, this lack of supervision meant that young children were eating lunch, after going to the “toilets”, without washing their hands thereby running the risk of spreading disease. This lie was told simply because teachers wanted their full lunch hour, after supervising the children.Mr.Tull was brilliant enough to take a simple trade union request(BUT) and turn it into a health issue.
We present these episodes to show that the BLP/DLP has always treated the teaching profession with little respect. Errol Barrow himself once told the leadership of the Secondary teachers union that he knew how to “deal with them” because he was a world war two bomber pilot .And according to him was skilled at dealing with the “enemy.”
Politics has also been used to promote teachers within schools and senior posts within the Ministry of Education. Some of the recent appointments to the posts education officers, have been deemed purely political by those within the profession. It was also done when Mia Mottley took over the Ministry of education and swiftly appointed teachers connected to her party to high ranking positions.
Teachers themselves have played the political card with great success. Some of our current parliamentarians were active unionists: Cynthia Forde (BLP); Rawle Eastmond, (BLP); Ronald Jones, (DLP) are examples. They know the difficult struggles and challenges of the profession. There are many highly professional teachers, who have refused to become heads and educational officers because of the political corruption that has plagued the profession. Many have opted for early retirement and in extreme cases left the profession. The Alexandra school fiasco is nothing more than a political sore bursting. Is it true that Broomes had applied for the post of Chief Education officer? Is it true that Matthew Farley, a highly respected principal had his eyes on the St. John constituency? Is it true that Farley also applied for the post of Chief Education Officer? The Ministry of Education is a glaring casualty of party and political opportunism. Distinguished Nationalist and Deputy Leader of the Peoples Empowerment Party (PEP), Comrade Robert “Bobby” Clarke, said at the recent Nation Newspaper sponsored town hall meeting: “Changing” BLP/DLP and vice versa really makes no difference!”
The Mahogany Coconut Group submits that it is nothing short of a modern day miracle, that the Ministry of Education and the competent public servants who run it have survived. The society is fortunate, that the majority of those with whom we entrust our children, are hardworking teachers dedicated to the profession. We salute them for escaping the contamination and poison that both the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party have unleashed in the Ministry of Education.
We firmly believe that progressive measures needed to reform our educational system are daily sabotaged by intellectual, professional and political yardfowlism, that are the trademarks of both the Democratic Labour Party and the Barbados Labour Party. The Ministry of Education and many of our truly professional teachers have been major victims.