All systems are go for next Tuesday’s Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination and not even a strike by the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) will get in the way, Minister of Education Ronald Jones has confirmed.
Jones today assured parents that the 3,600 students would sit the exam no matter what.
“All plans are in place for the conduct of that exam. I want to say to parents, have no worry,” he told journalists at a press briefing at his office this afternoon.
The BUT yesterday increased the pressure on Jones to meet with its members, threatening another call out on Friday if the minister did not comply.
The union held an emergency meeting of teachers at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium last Friday to discuss concerns over violence at school and other matters, and following the meeting President Pedro Shepherd announced that if the minister did not meet with the teachers by today, they would be off the job on Friday of this week.
After receiving a letter from Jones in which the minister turned down the union’s request, Shepherd yesterday threatened to call out the teachers on Friday morning to discuss the minister’s response and follow-up action.
“Based on this letter I would say there is nothing to go by really, and I think that the position of the Barbados Union of Teachers remains the same this evening as it was yesterday and as it was when I left the Gymnasium [last Friday].
“If we cannot have a meeting tomorrow [today], or something positive, then we may very well have to ask teachers to come to a meeting on Friday so that we can share the contents of the response from the minister and be guided by them as to what time frame they are prepared for the Minister of Education to meet with them,” the BUT head said at the time.
“The meeting has to be, and it has to be very soon. We are not moving away from that position. We remain adamant that that meeting needs to be sooner, rather than later, otherwise action would come into play.”
However, he assured Barbados TODAY in an interview yesterday that the BUT would do nothing to disrupt next week’s Common Entrance examination, a promise he repeated this afternoon at a news conference.
“Any issues with the examination would not be as a result of any action taken by the Barbados Union of Teachers,” Shepherd said.
Still, Jones was taking no chances and announced that there would be contingencies in the event of a strike.
“I wish to assure parents that they have no need to worry about the conduct of the exam or the integrity of the exam. I hope that the threatened withdrawal of labour really is not done and I hope that all parties are on board to ensure that that comes off well,” he stressed.
The Minister of Education said his ministry had been receiving calls from many Barbadians, including past teachers, representatives of non-governmental organizations and people from various walks of life expressing concern about the possible impact of a strike of the students sitting the exam.
“We stand ready to be mobilized at the instant. We want to thank them for that, but we know that our teachers would rise to true professionalism by working and ensuring that our young charges are able to operate in the examination without stress,” he added.
The latest row between the BUT and Jones stemmed from a recent incident at Ellerslie Secondary School during which a student is alleged to have spat on and kicked a teacher.
Both the BUT and its sister union the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), which also called out its members last week, have called for the student’s expulsion.
It was not clear up to the time of publication if the BSTU would also call out its members this Friday.