George Bernard Shaw famously wrote in his 1903 play Man And Superman:
He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.
Well, it is shaping up to be a very interesting week on the industrial relations front as this island’s teachers prepare to down chalk and walk in what looks to be the first round of crippling protest action for 2015. This is not what we expect of our teachers, some could say.
But try telling that to the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) president Pedro Shepherd, who certainly sounds like he “can” and will “do”, if only to make the point to Barbados’ education authorities that the time for “long-talking” on issues at the Parkinson Memorial and Alma Parris Memorial secondary schools has come to an end.
“We have not been given any tangible information that would satisfy our members at these schools that they will be treated to improved conditions at the start of this school year . . . . In actual fact, we are not hopeful at all that improved conditions will be the case, since the catalysts for the issues remain in place, with no apparent change in attitude or mode of operation.
“The Ministry [of Education] has declined to give us a timeline for when their promised action will bear fruit. This tells us that we can expect action within another day or maybe within another decade. This is just not good enough. Our members cannot wait forever while they suffer in silence,” said Mr Shepherd, whose threats at the start of the new school term have only served to conjure up a sense of bewilderment, if not déjà vu.
This is not to say that teachers have neither right nor reason to protest. Not at all! Our educators have over the years been made to sacrifice, and have had to stomach quite a lot.
But still, is there really enough justification for yet another BUT-sponsored, Jeff Broomes-inspired circus?
Couldn’t Mr Shepherd have called his BUT predecessor turned Deputy Chief Education Officer Karen Best over for drinks for Christmas or New Year’s and seek to come to an understanding that would have us all avoid this seemingly unnecessary disruption at the commencement of the Hilary Term?
Instead, the BUT and the ministry, whose leadership has ironically arisen out of the very same bowels, remain at odds to the point of pending protests.
But then what? Not another senseless commission of inquiry? We sincerely hope not!
It is shameful enough to recall what was allowed to transpire at The Alexandra School in St Peter under the negligent eye of the Ministry of Education, which clearly has not learnt anything from that costly administrative fiasco of two years ago.
Indeed the BUT, whose ultimate goal back then was to have principal Broomes removed from the helm of the St Peter learning institution, may have won the battle, but certainly not the war. Otherwise we wouldn’t even be talking about the controversial principal again.
But, alas, we now have another Alexandra situation on our hands, albeit it at Parkinson Memorial, which means another group of children whose education is currently in peril, while teachers and principal get set to slug it out again in Act 2, Phase 1, in The Pine, St Michael.
We will wait to see how far this one goes before the Prime Minister intervenes, hopefully, sooner rather than later to save us the misery, and embarrassment of such a recurrence. It was bad enough seeing Minister of Education Ronald Jones simply throw his hands in the air at the height of The Alexandra School fiasco. We care not for the impression to be created yet again that he is actually clueless about how to take forward the vital education portfolio.
For in the end, it is not Jeff Broomes or his Alma Parris equivalent Valdez Francis, or even Minister Jones, who will suffer the ultimate loss, but the scores of innocent charges who may never be able to recover from the loss of vital class time, on account of unprofessional personality clashes, which highlighted glaring weaknesses in our education administration –– still to be resolved after many gruelling months spent by our teachers away from the classroom and on the picket line.