The Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) is hopping mad over the timing of a meeting organized by the Ministry of Education to discuss the reopening of Combermere School next week, suggesting the ministry might have ulterior motives.
While announcing yesterday that cleanup work at the school would soon be completed “with the expectation that the school will reopen” at the start of the new term, Acting Minister of Education Senator Harry Husbands said a meeting with the BSTU had been planned for 3 p.m. on Friday at the ministry’s headquarters, Elsie Payne Complex, Constitution Road, St Michael.
However, the union issued a statement today questioning why the ministry had waited until the last minute to schedule the talks.
“It is unfortunate that the senior officials of the Ministry of Education have chosen first, to restrict their meeting with the BSTU on the current situation at Combermere School to the Friday before any potential resumption of work at the school.
“The Christmas holidays were three weeks long with only three non-working days; ample opportunity for meetings with the BSTU and their members . . . ample opportunity for exchange of information, clarification, to provide assurances and formulate contingency planning, none of which has taken place,” the BSTU said in the statement attributed to its president, Mary Redman.
The Waterford, St Michael institution was ordered shut by the ministry last November due to an unexplained foul odour, blamed for causing students and teachers to fall ill.
Sixth formers were later housed at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College and fifth formers were accommodated at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, while the remainder of the student body had been unable to attend classes.
It was not the first time that school had been ordered closed in the past year due to environmental problems, with each prescribed remedy failing to resolve the problem.
The BSTU warned that whatever the ministry’s motive, the union would not be delinquent in its responsibility to protect the interests of both teachers and students.
“The ministry should stand warned that any strategy behind these two actions do not go unrecognized by the BSTU and that it will not preclude any action that the BSTU might have to take in protecting and enforcing the rights of its membership and the interests of the children,” the statement said.
“The BSTU is fully cognizant of what may be an attempt by the MOE [Ministry of Education] to prevent what they might envisage as potential pushback from the Union and teachers with a lack of satisfaction with the outcomes at the scheduled meeting.”
Ahead of its meeting with the teachers’ union, the ministry plans to meet parents and guardians at 1 p.m. on Friday at the school to update them on the situation.
The BSTU itself has scheduled a joint meeting with Barbados Union of Teachers tomorrow at Solidary House.