The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has given the Ronald Jones-led Ministry of Education full marks for ensuring that all schools were ready for the start of the new school term today.
BUT President Pedro Shepherd told Barbados TODAY there was hardly anything to complain about at the resumption of classes this morning, following the Christmas break.
Shepherd said he was pleasantly surprised to learn that the ministry had completed all outstanding remedial work on various school plants during the three-week break.
“This term so far we have not had any major complaints. We left last term with the understanding that some work needed to be done on the St Mark’s Primary [School] during the Christmas holiday and that work was done. Yesterday, teachers turned up for work and they still had residue but after we made contact with the ministry they sent in cleaners last night.
“We also had an issue last term with the St Lawrence Primary School with the sewage, as well as issues with overflow because they are between the sea and the swamp. We were able to get the ministry to go in there and do some work as well to alleviate that problem,” Shepherd said.
The resumption of classes this term was a stark contrast to last September when the reopening of five schools had to be delayed because of unfinished repairs.
Shepherd was highly critical of the ministry at the time, accusing it of poor planning, while complaining that some of the infrastructural work had only started in the last five weeks of the nine-week summer holiday.
However, he was singing a different song today, stating that there appeared to be a more concerted effort by the authorities to address the teachers’ concerns.
“From the level of the BUT we can say that this term has started relatively smoothly. However we hope during the course of this year as issues arise and/or membership brings them to our attention, the ministry can bring about some type of resolution.
“Coming to the end of last term we had started to build a relationship with the ministry and we are now in a better position to communicate with the permanent secretary and other officers of the ministry, and as a result we have been able to get things done somewhat more expeditiously,” Shepherd stressed.
While the trade unionist was happy with recent attempts to bridge the communication gap between the BUT and the Ministry of Education, he told Barbados TODAY that the issue of school safety in light of increased school violence needed to be addressed.
“In relation to the safety, that is still a major concern for us because some of the schools are located in densely populated areas. Some of the schools also have overgrowth so we are now working with the ministry to see how we can create a safe buffer zone,” he stressed.