Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, a former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Minister of Education, yesterday expressed disappointment that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has not intervened in the impasse between the Ministry of Education and the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT).
For approximately four weeks, BUT president Pedro Shepherd has been demanding a meeting with Minister of Education Ronald Jones to thrash out a number of pressing issues. Shepherd also indicated that he would ask Stuart to arrange the meeting which has not yet materialized.
Leading off debate in the House of Assembly this morning on an Opposition-tabled no confidence motion against the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Mottley made it clear that she did not support “the conduct of school business or infractions or disagreements in the media”.
Calling for it to stop immediately, Mottley stated that no school or student benefitted from a breakdown in relations between “a parent and teacher or a teacher and a child in the media”.
Saying she was especially bothered by the fact that the Ministry of Education had “all members at the senior level who have had experience in the union membership and leadership”, Mottley suggested a reason why the matter was not already resolved.
She contended “the real internal fight” had nothing to do with education and more with “the internal wrangling of the Democratic Labour Party”.
“Part of the problem may well be that it may have more to do with who supports who in which riding in St Michael to run against who, and who needs a national base to do what they have to do,” Mottley charged.
“Part of the problem may well be that the Minister of Education cannot get so far the benefit of the support of this leader because the leader has another agenda,” she said.
“Part of the difficulty that we face in education is that like with everything else, the Ministry of Education has become a pawn for the internal politics of the Democratic Labour Party.”
“That is the real internecine warfare that
we need to be talking about in this debate. That is the truth,” said Mottley, noting that Minister of Education Ronald Jones, on occasions in the past, used to serve as acting Prime Minister.
She argued that it was not fair to the children to be in an educational system that was “divided” on the basis of issues such as environmental threats, lack of resources, lack of supplies and industrial unrest.
Pointing out that it was the term in which exams were conducted and approximately 50,000 children were affected by an unfortunate situation, Mottley suggested that Stuart, himself a former teacher, should step in and take control of the matter.
“I say to the Prime Minister that you cannot feel happy simply addressing this matter from a branch meeting in St Peter and allowing the course of events to take the road that they have been taking, knowing full well the uncertainty the impact is having on the students and the parents and teachers of this country,” said Mottley, admitting that she was not aware of “who is right and who is wrong” in the matter.
She went on: “But I do know that leadership demands that a prime minister will intervene and bring order and regularity to the school system in this country.”
Mottley also called on Barbadians “who can influence it” to speak out, while maintaining that there still needed to be communication between the Ministry of Education and the union, teachers and parents.
“But it should not be the subject of salacious publication as a front page, a back page or a middle page in the newspaper. And we do ourselves a disservice as a country if we believe that that is how we are to go forward,” she said.
Stating that education was one of the areas in which Barbados was most competitive in the world, Mottley also criticized the Freundel Stuart administration for using “an axe to arbitrarily” cut expenditure on education instead of using “a scalpel to brilliantly and surgically protect that which must be protected”. (MM)