President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd has issued a damning indictment of the authorities over what he saw as glaring discrepancies in the handling of recent incidents of alleged criminal behaviour by students at two secondary schools, suggesting it was the epitome of “two Barbadoses” with the so-called elite schools still receiving preferential treatment.
In one incident last week, a 15-year-old Parkinson Memorial School student smashed the window of a teacher’s car with a rock, and was subsequently remanded to the Government Industrial School.
Earlier this week police were also called in at Combermere School after a 14-year-old boy was found with a gun magazine – the part of the gun which stores the bullets.
The student had first claimed he had found the item while he was on his way to school before later changing his story, Principal Vere Parris was quoted as saying.
However, no charges have yet been laid and Parris has come out publicly in defence of the young man.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Shepherd said the disparity in terms of the treatment by the authorities of the two worrying incidents sent a clear message that while all schools may be created equal, some were still more equal than others.
However, he acknowledged that “the difference between the two is that there was damage to a teacher’s vehicle at Parkinson while at Combermere, it is something that was found on the person.
“So it would really be up to the police then to make the charges in relation to whether or not the findings would amount to a criminal act,” he pointed out, adding that “we know in Barbados that if you are found with a bullet you are charged; if you are found selling flour on the beach as if it is cocaine, you are charged. So, it is going to be really interesting to see what happens in this particular case”.
The BUT president also questioned the attempt to initially conceal the identity of the school attended by the boy with the magazine.
The police statement on the issue did not name the Waterford, St Michael institution, stating only that the incident had occurred at “an urban school”.
“I realize that when the news first broke there was some reluctance to name the school, but finally we would have heard that it was at Combermere. The principal would have later made a statement regarding the incident. Now, if I liken that to the situation at most of our newer secondary schools where we had Parkinson last week and everyone involved was clearly identified, one may conclude that there is still this elitist situation in our schools in Barbados,” Shepherd contended.
The trade unionist also made reference to longstanding environmental issues at Combermere, which have been linked to recurring illness in staff and students but largely downplayed by the school’s administration, as evidence of a possible culture of cover-up.
“We would also note the comments that were consistent coming from that institution [Combermere School], in terms of not wanting to give any indication that anything is happening at that particular institution. I can’t say what the reason is. I know that the school is classified as one of the top schools, so that may be the reason they are reluctant to release that type of information, being the ‘University of Waterford’ and all,” the educator said