A cloud of uncertainty continues to hang over the country’s education system, despite today’s agreement by educators to return to the classroom while new timelines are issued to authorities.
The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) said further action was likely to be taken if officials failed to respond to three new deadlines to appoint temporary teachers and address problems at the Alma Parris and Parkinson Memorial schools.
Following an almost three-hour meeting at Solidarity House, attended by an estimated 1,500 educators, the BUT did not say exactly what course of action it would resort to if the demands were not met within the two-week and six-week timelines.
“We can’t determine what happens after the two weeks or the six weeks but I’m sure something will happen after the six or after the two. Hopefully, we’ll have something during [the period] to please us,” president Pedro Shepherd told the media following the talks.
During the meeting, which followed the expiration of a 72-hour ultimatum for action on their grievances, the BUT agreed to issue three new deadlines to the Ministry of Education and the Personnel Administration Division.
It also plans to write to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart in his capacity as Minister of the Civil Service, asking that the appointment of teachers be speeded up.
“We have given the Personnel Administration Division six weeks to complete the appointment of all temporary teachers in Barbados. We are also going to write to the Personnel Administration Division asking for the complement of teachers to be increased from the present 2,564 established positions to 3,000. We want an increase of 436 because the system needs them; the system cannot function without these persons,” said Shepherd, explaining that those people were already in the system.
“We have asked the Ministry of Education, Science, Innovation and Technology to give us some indication within the next two weeks as to the status of the current investigation being conducted into the Parkinson Secondary School and two weeks to give us some indication . . . as to what the plan of action, which is being instituted at the Alma Parris Secondary School, would bring.”
Explaining the seriousness of the situation facing temporary teachers, the BUT boss said some appointments were outstanding up to 15 years and some teachers were unable to secure financing as a result.
Others who have been successful, he added, had encountered difficulties.
Shepherd was adamant that the situation must be addressed.
“We do not believe that those timelines are unrealistic. I believe that whatever has to be done at those two schools, the Ministry has already been forwarded all the information. So it’s just a matter of them to get the plan of action going, get whatever procedures are necessary in place,” he said.
The union official pledged that the BUT would “not relent on these issues”, describing the teachers’ concerns as legitimate.
He said today’s meeting also called for the Ministry of Education to meet with teachers at the Alma Parris and Parkinson schools to inform them of what they were doing to address the areas of concern.
At least two uniformed police officers were on the scene today, but the atmosphere at Solidarity House remained calm.
After filling parking spotson the compound, scores of teachers had to resort to parking at the nearby Weymouth car park.
They returned to the classroom following the meeting.
Please also see pages 4&5 of the Barbados Today ePaper at http://epaper.barbadostoday.bb.