2016 will be remembered by the BU household for the massive disruption in the school system as a result of the always on industrial conflict between the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) trade unions and the ministry of education. We are of the certain view that there is or will be a price society will have to pay because of the inability of our ‘leaders’ to competently resolve challenges/conflicts tossed up by the sector from time to time.
Nine days have passed and most Barbadians have forgotten about the two widely publicised cases of two students who were enrolled at Ellerslie and Springer Memorial Secondary schools, disciplined by the principals, and it resulted in acerbic exchanges between the Ministry of Education, Parents, Unions and the public. BU will not rehash the two incidents just to surmise that leadership in the education sector by the ministry of education and the unions is sorely lacking.
It is important for school management everywhere to note that what is deemed to be deviant behaviour in the school system will require careful handling by those responsible in the future. Our societies have moved from adopting a collegial approach to one of being litigious. While all parties take comfort in having an arbiter of last resort such cases should be kept to a minimum given the negative impact on the minds of our citizens of tomorrow. This can only be achieved IF the parties act based on clearly defined codes of behaviour.
Against the foregoing a High Court Decision delivered by Justice Madame Lanns P in St. Vincent July 2016 is instructive. She rendered that the decision by the ministry responsible to transfer a 14 year old third former was improper and done so unfairly. The imbroglio started when the student responded to a comment by a teacher that her work was untidy to which the student noted (in writing) “like you kitty cat weh na wash’’.
Read full details of the case
The learning from the St. Vincent case and all the others that have occurred is that it calls for published procedures to be be followed meticulously by all parties. Manage the disputes devoid of emotion and political opportunism. We are seeing a level of dysfunction occurring in high places on regular basis that does not bode well for the kind of wholesome society we want to build (wink: that was a mantra to win votes). Related and recent examples can be seen with the NCC matter that was deferred by the Labour Department and recommended by the Prime Minister to the Employment Rights Tribunal although that entity was not correctly setup to deliver justice. We should not forget the Alexandra matter was as a result of negligence by the minister of education Ronald Jones who delayed to act on a report for several months. Up to now the recommendations in the Waterman Report have not been implemented and if BU information is correct the matter is under judicial review. Example after example can be found to show how our leaders have acted with ignorance and inefficiently.
The education sector is responsible for a significant allocation in the national budget, we deserve more, we deserve better. With a general election looming these are the kinds of issues the citizenry needs to become more engaged. The consequences for not holding the players accountable will be huge as we have started to witness.