If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones and Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) president Pedro Shepherd would do well –– and our educators even better as a consequence –– if they would each take time out to ponder the thought above of that legendary Chinese sage. In particular, they might each pick out the bad points of the other and correct them in themselves.
It would not have taken an Albert Einstein, far less a Jones, to come to the determination that the teachers meeting on Tuesday morning at Solidarity House had in effect withdrawn their labour from their disparate schools, and that those persons most disadvantaged were the pupils and students on their very first day of 2015 back to classes. And we aver that the disrespect the Minister of Education believes he and his ministry suffered would be more appropriately taken to have been hurled at the faces of the teachers’ charges themselves.
Mr Jones told the Press that 800 teachers had done this damage to our young and impressionable. Mr Shepherd, to boast his received support, would have the minister corrected. About 1,500 voices had spoken at Solidarity House that morning, the BUT leader said –– enough for a comfortably powerful union mandate.
The Ministry of Education has thus been given six weeks for its Personnel Administration Division to satisfy the appointments of temporary teachers, which in some instances have been overdue for as long as 15 years, and which in such a case would have preceded the coming to office of the current Democratic Labour Party administration.
This is, of course, no hale excuse for the pussyfooting, but the circumstance needed to be noted. Mr Jones would be reasonably expected to get cracking on this matter one way or another. Enough is enough!
As to the Alma Parris and Parkinson Memorial Secondary issues, the BUT has given Mr Jones and company two weeks instead to report on their findings, or get “some plan of action going” at these two institutions, or have “whatever procedures are necessary in place”. The problem is Mr Shepherd and supporters may yet not agree with any of the “action” or “procedures” proffered.
The more interesting though –– perhaps because of its potential for pulsating and consonant controversy –– is the Jeff Broomes-Parkinson saga. We cannot help but wonder if the dissenting teachers there are uncomfortable with Mr Broomes finding intellect-challenging work for them to do.
Aren’t teachers supposed to have an interest in “remedial” work for their charges who urgently and of necessity require it? What kind of teacher would have a first form student, who does not meet the year-end standard of graduation, promoted to second form to struggle way below his compentency for yet another year?
There can be no questioning that education is the key to success in life, and that teachers do make a lasting impact on the existence of their students –– for better or for much worse, depending on the role these educators see themselves as obligated to play.
Hardly anyone can deny Jeff Broomes’ deep interest in the education of his charges; and there is no evidence to suggest his recommendations for the proper and effective education of the nation’s children place these students at any disadvantage. There may be some “inconvenience” to teachers, but by their very calling and nature, they will make sacrifices for those whose minds it is their function to mould.
Many of our modern-day teachers cling to no such philosophy –– with the apparent sanction of their union leadership. And so we are minded to acquaint them with yet another thought; this time from Irish academic and lay theologian C.S. Lewis.
The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.
Let it not be said we are oblivious to the wrongs which our teachers need to have righted, or to the benefits to which they are entitled. Their employer the Ministry of Education has an obligation to dispense justice and fairness in these matters and must surely be held accountable. But in the exercise of such, our nation’s children must not be made to suffer.
It behoves us all to see to it that every child at all times has a caring adult in its life. And it will not always be the father or the mother, or uncle or aunt, or some other relative. It may be a senior friend, or the Christian neighbour.
But almost certainly it will be a teacher –– a good one of memorable deed!