The umbrella body for Parent-Teacher Associations is blasting the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) for its decision to disrupt classes on the first day of the school term tomorrow.
Having not heard from the Ministry of Education by today’s deadline, BUT president Pedro Shepherd said the union would be pressing “full steam” ahead with a 9 am meeting to get a mandate from members on three “burning” issues – treatment of teachers and unacceptable management style of the principals at Alma Parris and Parkinson Memorial Schools, as well as outstanding appointments.
He told Barbados TODAY that what happens next would depend on the talks with teachers.
But president of the Barbados National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (BNCPTA) Rhonda Blackman was very critical of the decision, suggesting that the move was not in the best interest of students.
She also warned authorities to get their act together and resolve the outstanding problems before another Alexandra School saga rears its head.
“The commencement of the term is on Monday. That is when teachers go in and there’s planning. Now, if we really had our children’s interest at heart, would we call a meeting Tuesday when the children should be [in school] or would we call the meeting on Monday?” Blackman queried in an interview with Barbados TODAY.
“I believe the union has its strategic direction in order to get what they want done but at the same time, the parents of this country must sit up and recognize what is happening and take a stance. What they need to understand is that they are a very significant part of the educational process, key stakeholders in the process. Until parents get their position right, we will continue to be reactive.”
However, Shepherd insisted that tomorrow’s meeting was not a form of industrial action.
“The purpose of the meeting is to bring the public of Barbados up to date, to bring teachers up to date on three matters. We had an update from the Ministry [of Education] last Friday and this was the earliest opportunity that we could have given members on the update from the Ministry,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Asked what would happen after the meeting which will be held at Solidarity House, he responded: “It depends on what teachers have to say tomorrow and what the Ministry’s response is in following up. As I said before, they are having an investigation at Parkinson School; I don’t know how long it is for, they have not given any indication and there is a plan of action at Alma Parris and no indication has been given about the length of time as well, so I can’t tell you what is the next form of action or how long it is going to take.”
He made it clear that the BUT would seek to ensure the outlined issues were resolved “before teachers accept that they are comfortable”.
Meantime, Blackman said she was hopeful that the Ministry of Education would do everything in its power to ensure students’ education is not compromised.
She said it would now be incumbent on school principals to step up to the plate to ensure effective supervision was provided for children during the time that teachers hold their three-hour meeting with the BUT.
Taking a critical look at the education sector and the constant challenges that creep up from time to time, the BNCPTA boss described the situation as a cancer.
She said the issues were dragging on too long, and needed to be properly addressed through continuous dialogue.
“We have to be cognizant of who will suffer in the process. We have to look at the psychological impact it is going to have on these children if there is disruption at the beginning of the term. Can they really be normalcy in the school after that? Can there be a state of preparedness after that? When children go into an environment where there is hostility at the beginning you [have] to expect that it will permeate throughout the term. Our hope is that this situation comes to a halt,” she stressed, adding that officials needed to draw from the example of controversial situations at Alexandra and the former Louis Lynch Secondary School.
“All we are hoping is that the process doesn’t take forever and that this [isn’t] another Alexandra School situation . . . because this is festering and it is going in a similar direction. We have to learn from our mistakes. We should have looked at the Alexandra saga, we should have looked at the Louis Lynch Secondary School saga, we should have been able to pull from all of these and be able to resolve [the issue]. I think we are a society that isn’t able to amicably resolve a lot of issues.”
The association president noted that she had not been contacted by the PTA at Parkinson Memorial School, while the association was not functioning at the Alma Parris Memorial School.