Ensuring that our young people understand from early the importance of discipline to success in life is a critical responsibility of every adult.
Making sure that children understand that following the rules is not dependent on whether or not they agree with them, is just as vital to their development as responsible citizens.
That every school ought to be a pillar of discipline ought not to be in dispute in our society at this stage.
We are also reasonably sure that principal of the Graydon Sealy Secondary School, formerly Garrison Secondary, Matthew Farley, understands all this clearly. Farley has been at the paddock Road school for a long time, an education administrator even longer, and educator even longer than that. He has long qualified to be called an education veteran.
Farley can also be fairly described as a social commentator. He does not fail to make his views known on radio as a talk show moderator as well as the host of the programme Educators’ Forum. Quite frankly there can’t be many Barbadians who don’t know Farley – or know of him.
He is seen by many as a no-nonsense person, a reputation that goes back, as far as we can recall, to his days as principal of the St. Mary’s primary School. We remember Farley in the newspaper back then warning parents who had developed the habit of picking up their little ones well after school closed, sometimes even after sunset, that he would deposit the children at the nearby Central police Station.
But Farley has also developed a reputation of being a principal who can at times behave as though the power given to him by his office places him above the standing and intellectual capacity of others, particularly parents of his students. We suggest that he pays attention to the charge that too often he will not listen to any other voice but his own.
Take this latest episode at the school where an estimated 250-plus students were suspended for what the principal considered violations of the dress code. We would never wish to tie the hands of a principal when it comes to maintaining order at his or her school, but if the photographs published on the front page of yesterday’s Barbados TODAY constitute reasonable grounds for the students being deprived of teaching time, then all Barbados, with the exception of the principal, needs a mass mental examination.
No insult intended, but the little girl pictured, in classic Bajan terms, looks like a grandmother’s child. How on God’s green earth can she be a candidate for suspension based on the length of her uniform? And if the little boy beside her is wearing a “baggy” pants then we need to invest in the writing of a new dictionary.
For Heaven’s sake, where is Justice Waterman? We need another commission of enquiry!
Seriously, if Farley, like any other principal, has a problem with particular students who breach the dress code habitually, then he has a right – a duty – to act firmly. But our view is that a mass suspension like what occurred at Graydon Sealy Secondary this week is against the very spirit of the rules and ought not to be condoned.
But there is a larger issue. While a principal should not be fettered in the day- to-day management of his school, there still ought to be thresholds beyond which a manager’s superiors must be informed/consulted or permission sought and obtained before certain actions are taken. No principal should have the authority to suspend 250-odd pupils without the prior absolute and unequivocal consent of the Ministry of Education. If the law now allows it, that law ought to be amended.
Matthew Farley might have been well-intentioned, but as far as we are concerned, on this one he is misguided – and in the use of this term we are being quite charitable!