An official visit by Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave to the St Matthew’s Primary School was today marred by protests by angry parents who are demanding the immediate removal of Principal Barbara Anne Brome-Bailey.
As the Governor General made his rounds within the school compound, exchanging niceties along the way with school officials and students, the parents were strongly venting on the outside, near the entrance to the Hothersal Turning, St Michael School.
Bearing placards and chanting “She must go, she must leave, stop victimizing our children, St Matthew’s is not a dumping ground”, there was no mistaking who was the source of their frustration.
Outspoken parent Sherita Parris told Barbados TODAY she was not at all happy with the principal’s style of communication, explaining that it was not only the fact that she was using the children as her messengers, but also that they were being asked to relay offensive messages to their parents.
“It is not fair as a principal that you are sending messages via children. Children are not messengers,” Parris complained to reporters.
The angry parent also claimed that since Brome-Bailey was appointed to the school in January, she has been sending via her students such messages as: “Tell wunna parents I don’t want them in my school, tell wunna parents I am the boss of in here, and things going the way it must go.
“Those are not things to tell our children,” Parris insisted.
She further claimed that the principal had told the students at Tuesday morning’s assembly, “all of wunna that know wunna shoes burst out, don’t come in here tomorrow” and that Brome-Bailey had threatened to take action against bad behaved students.
Describing the situation at the school as “ridiculous”, the outspoken Parris lamented that the Ministry of Education was not doing anything to fix the problem.
“They instructed her [the principal] to do things and nothing they instructed her to do she is doing. We are fed up. We have had enough. We want her moved,” Parris said.
The woman, whose daughter attends St Matthew’s, also referred to a written petition which was submitted to the Ministry of Education with signatures from 43 parents on April 21. In it, the concerned guardians outlined several issues, including school safety and cleanliness; the selling of unhealthy snacks on school premises; and a decision by the school authorities not to allow students to sit and eat on benches during break time.
Concern was also raised that Brome-Bailey did not attend the school’s annual sports events.
“As a principal I think that school sports and NAPSAC [National Primary School Athletics Championships] are important to school children and you should [attend] at least one if you can’t attend both. She attended none,” Parris claimed.
Another parent, who requested anonymity, said while she did not like confusion, she felt the situation needed to be urgently addressed for the sake of the children.
“Our children coming home unhappy. Children [who were] accustomed [to] coming home bouncing and telling us about their day,” she said, adding that the dramatic change in the children’s behaviour had become evident since Brome-Bailey’s arrival.
“This is recent behaviour since she has came. When she first came, we heard the rumours, yes, and of course you know you give people the benefit of the doubt, but then we realized . . . she is what she is.”
Parris’ mother Elizabeth Cooke also expressed concern about victimization, saying her daughter had been accused of giving information to the media.
“Whether that is true or not she has no right to be victimizing my granddaughter [who] had a part to do with the Governor General being there today, and she [the principal] said she no longer wanted her to do it,” Watson claimed, while warning that “if when the Governor General’s programme is finished and she didn’t do it, I will be taking steps further.”
Chief Education Officer Karen Best could not be reached for comment. However, today’s protests put a damper on the Governor Governor’s visit, even though lawmen did their utmost to ensure that the parents were nowhere in sight when he arrived.
However, cognizant of all that was going on around him, Sir Elliott used his 30 minute-long address to the students to zero in on the “turbulence”.
He said amid the threats of protest, his wife Lady Belgrave had told him “the children would be very disappointed if I had denied them the only opportunity they would have of meeting and chatting with me”.
However, he warned that the education of the children was too important to be sacrificed or placed in jeopardy by anyone.
“I humbly suggest to the parents and teachers to think long and hard before ever embarking on any course of action which would negatively impact on the progress of innocent children who are striving valiantly to improve themselves in order to secure that for which our fore fathers fought.”
He identified national heroes Errol Walton Barrow, Sarah Ann-Gill, Bussa and Grantley Adams while encouraging the students to work hard at their studies and read good books to improve their vocabular.
In her address, the embattled principal made no mention of the tensions between her and the parents, but said it was a privilege and an honour to be in the Governor General’s company.