The President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman believes that principals must take their fair share of blame for the current breakdown in school discipline.
Speaking on a television programme on Sunday night, Redman complained that many school administrators were not enforcing the rules when it comes to suspension of students.
“When you are suspended, the parents are supposed to come back with the child at the end of the suspension [but] too often it is not happening,” she said.
“The children come back to school, the parents do not come back with them. . . . [and] often we hear parents say, ‘don’t call me again with him or her . . . I’m not coming back’.
“What happens? The principal takes the child back into the school, without having followed the rules of the school,” the BSTU president lamented.
To make matters worse, Redman said many administrators felt their hands were tied when it came to the controversial matter of corporal punishment.
“And so, there has been a heavy dependence on suspension,” she said, explaining that “when I was in school, when you were suspended, that was a very serious offence.
“[But] now, because it is the go-to form of punishment, it means very little to the students, and it means very little to parents,” she added.
Also participating in the programme, President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd said at-risk children were a major problem for the educational system on a whole.
He pointed out that the Ministry of Education only had one psychologist to deal with the entire system, a situation which he said had proven quite inadequate.
“That psychologist has to deal with not only secondary [school] students, but primary students, because we have in the primary system, children who are suspended as well . . . children who are experiencing serious challenges; and so the psychologist in the Ministry is overworked and therefore cannot see children as often as they would,” the BUT leader said.
Turning to the standoff between Government and the teachers’ unions over payment for School Based Assessments (SBAs), Shepherd said his union fully supported the BSTU’s position that teachers should not be marking those Caribbean Examination Council papers without compensation.
“Our members are saying that the SBA has now become too onerous, it is now becoming more headaches, . . . more stress, too many subjects are now being added, the number of SBAs per subject is also increasing and so the workload is increasing,” Shepherd said, while expressing concern that some teachers were still correcting SBAs for “chicken feed” and for a “pittance”.