“There is wickedness in high places in this country.”
Apparently directing the comment at the news media, Minister of Education Ronald Jones made this declaration before Democratic Labour Party (DLP) faithful as he addressed a joint meeting of three constituency branches at the Grantley Adams Memorial School in St Joseph at the weekend.
Stating upfront that he would not be accepting any questions on the raging controversy related to the marking of School Based Assessment (SBA) scripts, the outspoken minister revealed: “We in the Ministry of Education have placed an embargo on any further comments on the matter outside of the two press releases we have made.”
He added: “Someone called last week and asked: Minister, did you not communicate with the Barbados National Council of Parent Teacher Associations who wrote you? I said ‘of course I did’. The president of the BNCPTA, Shone Gibbs, acknowledged receipt of my correspondence.
“However, I am seeing in the newspapers that up to now, I did not respond. You see what I am telling you? There is wickedness in high places in this country. No one in the fourth estate thought about checking with Gibbs. I speak to Gibbs literally every day. Before I came here this evening to address this meeting, Gibbs called me.”
Jones went on: “I told Gibbs I sent him correspondence on Friday and he said he had received it and he pointed out that he was calling me to bring me up to date as well on what the individual PTAs are doing in their various schools.
“I have seen so many half-truths in the last few weeks. There are some individuals who do not want any resolution. They shift the goal-post anytime. Are we seeking a solution on the SBAs or are we seeking confrontation?” the minister asked.
The SBA controversy stems from a decision by the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) that its members will no longer be correcting the papers set by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) unless they start receiving payment for doing so.
The Ministry of Education disagrees with the union’s position, saying correcting SBAs falls within regular teaching duties.
Jones, the parliamentary representative for Christ Church East Central, also accused some persons of engaging in “slash and burn tactics” in relation to the marking of SBAs scripts.
“There are messages being sent out encouraging teachers to erase marks placed on SBAs and, if they are placed online, to delete them,” he charged.
“However, I have not seen one reference of that in the Press because there are some people who intend to go as low as possible,” he added. “I call it beneath the sludge.”
Earlier, Jones acknowledged that marking SBAs had placed a greater workload on teachers over the years but he was critical of them for placing compensation for work done over the quality of the work.
“It says to me that the emphasis is on the pay rather than the quality of the work. I have a significant difficulty with that. Do not let us exploit our young people for our own gains. If there is a need for purposeful engagement, by all means let us participate in it,” he said.
Jones lauded teachers who have allowed their professionalism to rise to the fore in their commitment to their charges.