President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman said she was having a hard time understanding why the authorities in Dominica would turn down Barbados’ offer to host Dominican tertiary students in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
What made the decision even more baffling for Redman, who returned home from Roseau yesterday, is the fact that the Dominica school system has been shut down almost entirely since the monstrous storm ravaged the island a month ago.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones told Barbados TODAY this week that plans for the Barbados Community College to accept close to 50 Dominican students had been abruptly scrapped by the Dominican authorities, who informed his ministry that the arrangement was no longer necessary.
The minister said he had not been given a reason by the Dominican authorities for cancelling the programme mid-way through final arrangements for the students’ accommodation, speculating that efforts to restore that island’s learning institutions could be proceeding better than initially anticipated.
However, speaking to Barbados TODAY at Solidarity House this morning as teachers here celebrated Teachers’ Professional Day, Redman said she too was surprised by the decision.
“We heard the Minister of Education speak about students coming here to Barbados and then all of a sudden we heard that the Dominican officials said that it wasn’t necessary; at least that is what our Minister of Education is reported to have said. However, from what I saw yesterday we have children out of schools in Dominica, so I don’t see the recovery in the school system that is referred to. The daughter of one of the persons that was taking me around is doing CAPE [Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination and] reads her books using the light from her father’s car,” said Redman, who noted that the situation was especially dire for the Kalinago settlement on the island.
The BSTU president was so moved by the plight of the indigenous students that she advised their chief to write to Jones to explore the possibility of taking up the offer. She also said that teachers in Barbados had already expressed a willingness to open their homes to the Dominican students. “The hurricanes came about two weeks after school opened and some children haven’t been to school since, so essentially the year is finished for them. I advised him to write as chief of the Carib territory to Ministry of Education here to take up the offer for the Kalinago and see to what extend we can get some of those students here. I know that there were some teachers like myself who will be willing to take those students into our homes,” Redman said.