Outspoken educator and Anglican cleric Reverend Charles Morris Thursday accused the Ministry of Education of treating teachers at Combermere School with utter contempt in the midst of an ongoing environmental saga at the Waterford, St Michael institution.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Morris, who is head of the school’s History department, also expressed strong concern that teachers were presently being used as scapegoats, even though he said both he and his colleagues were among the primary victims of an unbearable stench which has engulfed the school in recent months.
“They [Ministry of Education] are treating us with contempt, yet they want to blame us for what is going on at Combermere School,” Morris said.
Not only the ministry, but even the parents seemed to want to hold the teacher responsible, he added.
However, Morris was adamant they were not the ones at fault.
“Not when both students and teachers are getting sick,” he said.
Morris is also upset that following the closure of the school last week to allow for an investigation into the environmental matter, neither Minister of Education Ronald Jones nor any other top official in his ministry have seen it fit to meet with the affected teachers.
However, he pointed out that the ministry’s top brass had since met with representatives of the school’s Parent Teachers Association and old scholars.
“Here it is you can meet with other organizations, maybe with the best intentions, but the very persons who are there suffering, the ministry has not met with them.
“Now, as I speak to you, the teachers of Combermere School have not met with the Minister of Education, the teachers have not met with the ministry, they have never come to see what is happening to us,” he told Barbados TODAY.
While acknowledging that a meeting did take place last Monday at the ministry, involving representatives of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and educators, Morris said “the scorn and contempt with which the teachers were treated was ridiculous”.
He lamented that only Permanent Secretary June Chandler had seen it fit to attend that meeting, despite the gravity of the situation, which he felt called for a stronger showing from the ministry.
Saying he was concerned about how the crisis was being handled, Morris said there were still some questions that the ministry needed to answer following its commissioning of an ecological study back in 2015.
“For example, where is the report that they said that they did? Why hasn’t that report been made public? These are questions that parents must ask. What are the contents of that report? Money was spent, to whom did the money go?
“I am speaking as the second longest serving member at Combermere School. We cannot be taking the blame for these issues,” he stressed.
The Anglican cleric also suggested that both the ministry and the school’s management were clueless about the source of the environmental woes.
“Now there is an attempt to bring all types of explanations. The principal [Vere Parris] has now introduced the theory of sabotage. Before that there was the issue of the [acacia] tree.
“My point is that we are groping about in the dark, and furthermore if you are going to research and you start with bias or theory, the results are not going to be valid,” he warned.
His comments came ahead of a meeting tonight called by the school’s Principal Vere Parris to update parents and guardians on the situation at the school.
During the two-and-a- half hour meeting at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, Parris pointed to possible sabotage of one of the school’s sewer caps, which he believes is partly to blame for the recent foul odour affecting the school. However, Parris did not say who he thought was responsible for the sabotage.
He also suggested that the nearby acacia trees were also contributing to environmental problems; so too chemicals disposed from the Science Lab.
Thursday night, Parris also suggested that the school could re-open in the matter of days following extensive remedial work.
However, he said the final decision was up to the Ministry of Education.
He also spent a considerable amount of time scolding the media over its coverage of the recent woes.