Minister of Education Ronald Jones appears not to be over the action taken by teachers earlier this year during a row with the Ministry of Education.
Despite strong condemnation by education officials, the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union called out their members to meetings in April to discuss several issues, including violence in schools.
The ministry roundly condemned both unions, saying it considered the meetings to be “a clear case of industrial action”.
Adamant that Jones should meet its membership to discuss their concerns, the BUT summoned a second meeting in May, much to the dismay of education officials.
The Jones-led Ministry of Education would later dock the teachers’ pay, prompting condemnation by the unions and the umbrella Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados.
Jones eventually met the teachers late last month in three hours of talks that focused on security at schools, health and safety issues and indiscipline, among other concerns. A second meeting was planned but no date has been announced for those talks.
However, Jones revisited the subject this morning in an address at the Erdiston Teacher’s Training College following the arrival of the commemorative Broken Trident.
The minister spent some time talking about wastage in the education system, revealing that there were times when he would “shed a little tear”, while at other times he would use “a robust word or two” when he observed wastage of education.
“Wastage can be seen in so many ways. Students who decide because their parents don’t encourage them as they use to, to idle, to stay at home, not do their homework, creating disruption in the classroom that affects others.
“Or when there is down time by a teacher who might be ill or somebody who deliberately says, ‘I am going to go on strike’ or ‘I am going to have a meeting when children should be taught’,” he said, without making direct reference to the teachers’ unions.
The minister said the country could not afford to squander scarce resources, reminding those present that the economy has struggled over the past eight years.
“We have seen in the last eight years how scarce resources have been and how we have had to manipulate and juggle to maintain a certain stability in education, in health, social welfare,” Jones said.
He stressed that despite the difficulties the country’s commitment to education had not wavered, and he appealed to Barbadians to redouble their efforts so the island could “continue to punch above our weight and don’t just simply accept mediocrity”.
“Government has paid critical and careful attention to the education of its citizens. We have stayed constant to education. Every year about 18 to 20 per cent of Government’s budget is spent on education,” Jones stated.