Recently I heard the Ministry of Education putting a focus on sixth form schools. I smiled and noted that after extensive meetings with my administrative team I submitted a proposal, not once or twice, but three times for the creation of a sixth form at the place from which
I was sent to Parkinson and with no response.
It was noteworthy that just a few short months after my exit from that place a sixth form was established there. As I said, I have to leave for something good to happen.
–– Outgoing principal of the Parkinson Memorial School, Jeff Broomes, addressing last week’s Speech Day And Awards Ceremony.
Clearly there is no end in sight to Jeff Broomes’ fight with the Ronald Jones-led Ministry of Education.
But even more worrisome should be the very frequent physical fistfights that seem to be taking place between students, both on and off the school compound, and which have now become an ugly feature of Barbadian school life.
This week, we were again forced to look on in horror as yet another video of most unsightly and unbecoming school display went viral on social media, which, ironically, was playing out at the same time the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) had publicly declared it was gearing up to “fight” Government over the issue of teacher appointments.
Sadly, this problem of fighting has become so pervasive in our school system that it is no longer reserved for the so-called “newer secondary schools”.
Even the older and more ‘highly respected’ learning institutions have fallen prey.
And to our shock and dismay, it would also seem as if our girls, and no longer the boys, are the leading protagonists in these unedited, uncut and totally disgraceful recorded episodes of “let’s pull each other’s hair out and gouge out each other’s eyes” in the full view of the public.
Never mind what is ripped or torn in the process; never mind who is watching either, or the fact one or more students may be actually video-recording the scene.
Nowadays, when students decide to fight, it could be beside the road, in a public service vehicle, or next to the principal’s office at lunchtime.
As the protagonists kick and cuff each other, they are usually egged on by a crowd of fully engaged spectators, eager to crown a victor.
Yes, the fight is definitely on in our school system!
So, forget all this unnecessary talk about who should have the next sixth form school, or indeed, which principal needs to retire for action to be taken.
Perhaps, it is the whole lot of bickering, which our children are exposed to, both at home and at school that is behind this worrying trend. Needless to say our students need to be taught greater respect for self, for family and indeed to show pride in school and in uniform.
But do some of our charges even care any more if mummy or daddy, or even auntie, sees them behaving in a most unruly manner?
It is as if many today have no care of living out that next 50 years, much less next year’s 50th anniversary Independence celebrations in Barbados. We hope that this is not the case, though the evidence seems glaring.
This is not to say that this present generation or the next of young Barbadians is by any means doomed. We have celebrated and will continue to hold high the achievements of the many positive youths who by their living do credit to our nation wherever they go.
However, something needs to be done urgently about a rather unruly lot, with a never-before-seen rare aggression, which can have the same effect as the proverbial “rotten” apple that spoilt the entire bunch.
We are already seeing the effect of this school fighting in our court system.
And in the absence of any effective counter-strategy from the authorities, we can only hope that these awful and unnecessary incidents will simply die down on their own.
God forbid that one of these students, or some innocent bystander, is seriously injured or otherwise maimed.
Unfortunately, not enough of today’s teachers seem as perturbed as Matthew Farley was in his time about taking the bull by the horns. On the contrary, the policy of many a modern-day educator, ably abetted by the education officials, seems to be the less said the better about any such conflicts. But there is no hiding from the ugly truth, even if principals choose to vilify the publishers of their institutional shame.
It’s the same shoot-the-messenger syndrome all over again. In the meantime, our schools are fast becoming war zones, where young ISIS-minded thugs prey on the weak, without the fear of repercussion, given the other conventional doctrine of “spare the rod and hope that it does not spoil the child”.
But we dare ask: to what end?
For our children’s sake, perhaps the BUT may also want to take this fight to Government before the next school term starts.
A caring Ministry of Education may also wish to meet with principals to hammer out an effective response to this ugly scourge.
For, as the saying goes, our children are our future, and without them, really, what future can there be for either teacher or Ministry of Education.
Better must be done.