Having considered staging its own March of Disgust, the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) settled instead for a March of Respect at a yet to be decided date, to send a strong message to the Ministry of Education that its members would not back down on their demands for payment to correct school-based assessment (SBA) projects.
It was an angry crowd of teachers who packed the auditorium at Solidarity House this afternoon for an emotionally charged meeting at which they decided to not only defy the ministry, but also to fight fire with fire.
The long running feud over the SBAs escalated last week when the ministry wrote to the teachers advising that they would be slapped with misconduct charges if they refused to correct the projects, a necessary component for matriculating the various Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) certification programmes.
The BSTU has insisted that correcting SBAs was not part of a teacher’s job description and that the SBAs were an external examination for which teachers ought to be compensated, a position supported by the Caribbean Union of Teachers.
However, the ministry has maintained that the teachers had a duty to mark the exams and would not be paid to do so, with Minister of Education Ronald Jones accusing the teachers of putting the educational well-being of the students at risk for a few dollars more.
Today, defiant educators vowed to deliver unmarked SBAs to their schools’ principals, while they directed the BTSU to set the earliest possible date and route for a march geared at demanding respect from their employers.
“When you don’t stand up for yourself and demonstrate that you are professionals and that you need to be treated like that at all times, then you are treated like a cornered animal. Everybody will then take jabs at you and that is the reality,” BSTU President Mary Redman said.
Redman stressed that her membership had reached the tipping point with a litany of woes plaguing the profession, including acts of violence and sexual assault perpetrated by students against teachers, and that it was do or die time for the island’s educators.
“The ministry has shown that they have no empathy or care for teachers and they will resort to any means necessary, which includes bullying and intimidation. We have as members and professionals, the right to be dissatisfied and register that dissatisfaction with the Minister of Education.
“When you leave here today you have to be committed to sticking by what you have promised, to not correct those SBAs; pass them on to the heads of department who will pass them on to principals. We are sending a message to the minister that the assistance that he promises for persons to correct SBAs, let those persons come out and correct the SBAs that we will not be correcting,”
She contended that by insisting that teachers work for a third party for free, the Ministry of Education was turning them
The trade unionist said she was concerned that a climate of fear may have taken its toll on the teaching fraternity, stating that a decision taken in the past not to mark the SBAs was met with partial compliance.
However, she warned members that anything less than a strong, united front would set the stage for future exploitation.
“The BSTU abhors the bullying attempts of the ministry in this regard and recognizes the attempted precedent to unilaterally change the terms and condition of work for teachers in Barbados. Further it recognizes the precedent for future unreasonable directives,” she argued.