The Ellerslie Secondary School teacher allegedly attacked by a student last academic year has yet to return to work, it was revealed today.
President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman told reporters the teacher, who was reportedly spat on and kicked in her vagina by a then 13-year-old female student in April, remains on sick leave.
Violence in schools, particularly student-on-teacher violence, was one of the issues discussed today at a meeting with teachers ahead of the start of the new academic year.
The Ellerslie School incident gained national prominence and brought attention to other such occurrences, including one at The Lodge School and another at Deighton Griffith, where a teacher’s car suffered $11,000 in damage.
“In relation to Lodge School, the two students [involved] have been recommended for transfer. In the case of Deighton Griffith, that teacher has been sent to another school while the investigations continue because his car was vandalized severely and there had been missiles thrown at him in the classroom on more than one occasion. He reported that he feared for his wellbeing and the Ministry [of Education] saw it fit to transfer him to another school while they carried out their investigation. I suppose they are still investigating because he is still at the other school.
“Meanwhile the teacher involved in the incident at Ellerslie is still on sick leave,” Redman told reporters after the meeting at the Barbados Workers Union’s Solidary House headquarters.
The union boss said the teachers also dealt with the vexing issue of the docking of pay, although very little time was spent of the subject.
However, she said it remained an area of concern because of the “serious implications” it had for the trade union movement.
The Ministry of Education docked the pay of teachers who attended meetings held last year by the BSTU and the Barbados Union of Teachers to discuss their concerns on indiscipline, security of tenure and terms and conditions of service, among others.
Redman said today the move was an attempt by the authorities to “break the backs” of the island’s trade unions.
“We discussed it [docking of salaries] very briefly and not in the depth we would have liked because of time constraints, but the members all see it as very important issue and one which has serious implications for the continued effectiveness of the unions.
“As one member said, it is an attempt to break the back of the union because it was an attempt to instil fear and cause persons to hesitate with regards of their right to freedom of association. It is fundamental issue – I don’t know if the Barbadian public realizes the precedence it has set in terms of unions’ ability to swiftly intervene for emergencies,” Redman said.
She vowed the union would put the ruling to test, but did not say how.
The outspoken trade unionist also spoke about the announcement during the 2016 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals that public servants acting for three years or more would be appointed.
She said there was no reason for the “song and dance” about the announcement since it should have been done more than eight years ago.
“It was already in the Public Service Act. It was supposed to have been done since the 1st January 2008, so I don’t know what all the song and dance is about. We still have persons who should have been appointed since January 2008 because they were in established post and had been there three years prior. So their appointment should have been automatic, so they have been essentially acting for over ten years,” she said.
Redman had earlier told Barbados TODAY that while membership among trade unions here was on the decline, the BSTU was enjoying its largest membership ever.
“Our membership has been growing steadily and as a matter of fact we are the largest that we have ever been, we are up to about 550 members,” the fiery teachers’ advocate said, throwing cold water on the notion that the unions were losing their teeth.
“You hear that constantly but unions are as strong as the perceived support of their membership. To a large extent it is perception, and if members do not come out and openly support unions then the unions are not seen to have the teeth that they are supposed to have; and those who can will take advantage of what may be simply a perception,” she added.