A candidate for the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has rushed to the defence of Minister of Education Ronald Jones, who has come under fire from the teachers’ unions following a cutlass attack at the Ellerslie Secondary School this week that resulted in a 17-year-old student losing a finger, coming close to losing a second, and suffering several chop wounds to his right hand.
Jones has yet to speak on the bloody attack, believed to have been prompted by an attack on the assailant two weeks earlier, that left him battered and bruised.
However, social activists and DLP candidate in St Michael South East Rodney Grant said instead of pointing fingers at Jones, the unions should take a look in the mirror because they have been making unreasonable demands.
“The unions themselves have to take some of the blame because they create conflict and tension in the society by pushing for things that are unreasonable. They make people believe that they can get things that don’t exist. So we have to stop preparing people for things that are not reachable because that only creates tension. The unions really need to check themselves and stop this individualism,” Grant told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines the DLP lunchtime lecture.
The Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) responded to Wednesday’s incident by repeating a demand for a high level meeting to discuss violence in schools.
BSTU President Mary Redman was especially critical of Jones, complaining that it had been more than a year since the Jones-led Ministry of Education had promised talks on the matter but nothing had happened since.
The Barbados Union of Teachers also weighed in on the issue, calling on the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Defence and the Attorney General’s Office to take urgent action.
Jones, who last April announced he would establish a broad-based committee to investigate violence in schools, but has yet to act on his pledge, told Barbados TODAY this morning that he would address Wednesday’s incident when he visits Ellerslie on Monday.
However, Grant contended that the problem of violence in schools could not be approached from a one-dimensional perspective, but rather an overhaul of the social layers which impact on today’s youth.
“We need to talk about all of the different layers of socialization, the family and the community. So it is not a problem of just pointing fingers at one particular aspect. It is not as easy as that. A lot of the young people are learning violence from their elders. They see conflict being played out in their homes, played out in their communities and this sub-culture which is now taking over communities and societies is now finding itself within the schools,” he said.
“It is a difficult thing to pull back because when you look at most parents, they themselves are losing the battle with their own children. This has to be the first point of reference if you are going to talk about resolving the problem,” he added, while acknowledging that the Ministry of Education needed to implement a filtering system to ensure that students who were not academically inclined were not frustrated.
“We recognize that a lot of our young children going into the schools are actually failing and that is because we have no methodology in the schools to deal with those children who are not academically inclined. We need to be able to deal with them from early and not after the fact,” Grant stressed.