Joshua Y. Edwards: They don’t even know their multiplication tables.
Jim Murdock: Of course not. All they can multiply is themselves.
Joshua Y. Edwards: Well, how will they ever graduate?
Jim Murdock: Graduate? They just get to be 18. Then they throw them out to make room for more of the same kind. –Dialogue between teachers in the film “Blackboard Jungle” 
The average Barbadian might be forgiven for thinking that the contemporary local classroom has indeed been transformed into a variety of a blackboard jungle befitting the 1955 film of the same name. What other conclusion may be drawn after hearing the words of Ms Mary-Anne Redman, president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union [BSTU] who recounted incidents of drug abuse, ineffective methods of discipline and an increasing prevalence of student misconduct in the nation’s schools?
Then, by midweek, the sister union of the BSTU, the BUT, had publicly “declared war” on the Minister and Ministry of Education, although most observers remain puzzled as to the “casus belli”. Ostensibly, it was alleged to be the failure/refusal of the Minister to meet with the Union, although his parliamentary secretary has refuted this assertion, citing occasions of no fewer than, as he termed it, “several times in the last few months”.
If this is not denied, it may be a case of the union falling victim to a condition that seems to afflict most Barbadians -that of needing to resort to the very highest official only in an organization in order to have a problem resolved. The bus service in your area is not running to schedule? Call Brass Tacks to have the minister himself come on air to explain this anomaly. Industrial dispute? Only the Prime Minister himself can settle this.
In my brief tenure as Chairman at the Fair Trading Commission, I have received written complaints on matters that would be far more quickly and more effectively resolved by the highly competent staff of the Commission than by myself. I imagine that the Minister himself must have been similarly approached. Thus, carrying its complaints to the Education Officers in the Ministry will not appease the union; no less prominent an individual than the minister himself will do. This “Referral to the Big Chief” tradition may be culturally ingrained.
It may also be, though, that industrial warfare by the BUT had commenced much earlier than on its official announcement this week. For example, the BUT has decided to hold meetings of its membership during school hours, and has challenged the Ministry’s right to record the absence from duty of some teachers, presumably for the purpose of assessing their entitlement to salary. While the ILO jurisprudence on freedom of association for trades union purposes does allow for access by a workers’ organization to its constituent members as part of its right to collective bargaining under Convention No. 98, it also holds that this “should not impair the efficient operation of the undertaking concerned”. It is at least arguable that a union meeting on a school day does serve to impair the efficient operation of the school system.
At the same time, it has also been held that a teacher’s salary does not accrue minute-by-minute, but rather day-by-day, so that there should be no official docking of salary unless the teacher is absent for the entire day or, at least, a substantial part of it.
More nettlesome, however, is the recent declaration by the BUT of its intention to institute a work-to-rule strategy through its members, whereby teachers will be on the job from 8:45am to 3pm only. While such action, I imagine, would be in strict accordance with their contractual obligations, this is also commonly regarded legally as a form of industrial action and a breach of contract if done with an improper motive.
Moreover, this strategy increases the potential for liability of the school authorities for any injury caused to a pupil that could have been avoided had there been adequate supervision. That a duty of care is owed to pupils who are known to arrive early or to leave late is scarcely in dispute, and the performance of this duty is traditionally delegated to the teaching staff. Nonetheless, it remains fundamentally the responsibility of the school itself and, if in the absence of performance of this function, reasonably avoidable injury result should to a child, the school would be held liable.
It does not end there. The minister himself, in a thinly veiled reference to the teaching fraternity/sorority, yesterday declared that in his opinion, flogging is not discipline, but amounts to a criminal assault on the child victim for which the perpetrator “should be taken before the courts and jailed if found guilty…”
As a matter of law, while Mr Jones’ premise that flogging constitutes an assault or strictly speaking, a battery, on the victim, is correct, there also exists the defence at common law of reasonable chastisement. In addition, this form of punishment is also permitted by statute in Barbados; so long as certain stipulated individuals carry it out.
Not that Barbados has any moral right to urge censorship of the practice at this stage. At the last Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council in 2015, Barbados is listed among those states that rejected recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, joining such paragons of human rights observance as Albania, Brunei, Somalia, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia. We like it so!
See http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/assets/pdfs/tb-upr-analyses/UPR%20analysis%20global, %20all%20states.pdf