Teachers at Grantley Adams Memorial School have forced the closure of the school tomorrow after reporting that they planned to stay away from the classroom following a stabbing yesterday at the Blackmans, St Joseph learning institution, which resulted in injuries to four students, and the discovery today of several weapons, including a cutlass.
The educators took this decision at a meeting this morning with the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), during which it was decided that their fears over safety merited the invocation of Section 104 of the Safety and Health at Work Act.
This section makes it clear that “where during the course of employment there is sufficient evidence to indicate that an employee’s health and safety are in imminent danger, that employee may refuse to carry out the tasks assigned to him or her pending consultation with their safety committee, trade union, staff association or the Chief Labour Officer”.
BSTU President Mary Redman made it clear this afternoon that teachers would not return to the school unless the Ministry of Education meets with them to address the worrying concerns.
“The shop stewards called us to the meeting and when we got to the school there was such an atmosphere of despondency. The teachers are so distressed, some of them even shed tears because they feel traumatized and emotionally drained,” Redman said.
“They are fearful for their own safety and they are also fearful that they cannot protect the children because these children are armed. Would you believe that after yesterday’s incident, today it was confirmed that a search of the school premises revealed a cutlass, two knives, some large pieces of broken mirror and a big long piece of metal?”
The BSTU head also revealed that the teachers’ frustration was compounded today by a lack of support services.
“What was distressing to me was that services were provided today for the students but the ministry put nothing in place for the teachers, and it really upset them. Up to 2p.m. when I left the school premises no senior officers from the Ministry of Education had come to the school to offer comfort, support or advice, and the teachers said that they felt abandoned. So we wrote a letter today in which the BSTU advised the Ministry of Education to meet with staff urgently. We also indicated in our correspondence that given the fact the teachers continue to feel unsafe they are therefore removing themselves from an environment that they deem to be unsafe,” she said.
The Ministry of Education has since issued a release confirming that the school will be closed tomorrow.
The release issued through the Barbados Government Information Service stated that “the closure is to facilitate a meeting” between ministry officials and teaching and non-teaching staff at the school.
It was just last week that Redman urged Minister of Education Ronald Jones to intervene urgently to curb worrying levels of school violence following a similar incident which left four students from the Daryll Jordan and Frederick Smith secondary schools with multiple stab wounds aboard a state-run Transport Board school bus.
Both the BSTU and the Barbados Union of Teachers have long complained about school violence, which they said was getting out of control.
The most recent incidents included a male student from Grantley Adams Memorial School setting fire to the hair of an unsuspecting female student, and a cutlass attack in November last year in which a 17-year-old student of The Ellerslie School lost a finger, had another partially severed, and suffered several chop wounds to his right hand.