The Ministry of Education has been given until Tuesday to meet with the representatives of the island’s teachers to discuss the worrying rise in school violence or face the wrath of the educators.
Scores of teachers gathered at the National Union of Public Workers headquarters at Dalkeith, St Michael from 1 p.m .today, where a unanimous decision was taken to present the Ronald Jones-led ministry with the ultimatum.
During what was a rare opportunity for the media to listen in for most of the session, at which passions ran high at times, the teachers also moved to call out their membership to a meeting on Wednesday if the ministry dismisses their demand.
“We are going to give this as an ultimatum and the understanding, since the ministry has a way of ignoring our ultimatums, if that ultimatum is not met then we are going to have to do something about it,” said BSTU President Mary Redman, who accused the ministry of not caring for the welfare of teachers.
“I see that the ‘something’ will require a mass meeting on Wednesday the 21st to finalize where we go from here,” Redman said.
She emphasized the fact that nearly two years after Minister of Education Ronald Jones promised to establish a committee on violence in schools, nothing has happened in this respect, adding that should Jones agree to the meeting, the union would again call for such a committee.
Today’s meeting came a week after the BSTU was kicked out of a two-day meeting between teachers of Grantley Adams Memorial School and the ministry, which was held at the behest of the union following a stabbing at the school, which left four students nursing injuries. At the time Jones had accused the BSTU of showing up to the talks “willy nilly”, without an invitation.
“I would encourage that rather than persons just turning up willy nilly at a school that nobody just walks off the street and walks into a private sector organization. Somehow people believe that they hear an accident happen at the school and they just walk onto the school. We are not encouraging that. No, not at all,” the minister had said.
“We don’t just walk off the street and come to your workplace and bother anybody. We cannot encourage that because it leads to the further breakdown of the respect that we all need. It is not because we are called public they can do that. When it is a private school they call first and speak to the principal, but somehow people believe that we are called public and they can just show up. It is protected space,” Jones stressed.
This afternoon the outspoken BSTU head said this was yet another example that the minister cared nothing about the well being of his employees.
Making reference to Monday’s stabbing at St Leonard’s Boys’ School which left two 16-year-old students nursing injuries, Redman told the teachers it was time that they took their safety into their own hands.
“As we continue to say, the ministry shows no interest in our well-being and safety. They have shown no caring and we have to let them know that we care about ourselves even if they don’t,” she said.
Four schoolboys – two 15-year-olds and two aged 16 – appeared in court today in connection with Monday’s stabbing and were charged with causing a disturbance at an educational institution.
Meanwhile, Dawn Grosvenor-Davis, the union’s first vice president, accused the ministry of attempting to put blame for the incidents on the teachers, and not the children, charging that in correspondence this week the ministry was seeking to investigate the teachers.
“It is a full inspection with immediate effect. It is not for the troubled children but instead it calls for an examination of the management structure, the systems, a departmental analysis of the curriculum, strategies used in teaching, materials used to enhance learning and the assessment of learning outcomes,” said Grosvenor, who suggested that this could be a ploy to transfer some teachers.
During the meeting several teachers also voiced concern with being asked to search children’s bags, stating this was outside their area of training.
Many said they feared reprisals from some students, and suggested that the ministry hires trained security personnel or enlist the police to carry out the searches.
This position was supported the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools (BAPPSS), which said in a statement released this afternoon, that “teachers should not be charged with the responsibility of reforming violent offenders”.
“We have to admit that a minority of our students need medical and or sociological interventions from other professionals in our society on a more consistent basis and in a more structured way. Our call therefore, is for greater use to be made of the facility set up to do this and for additional facilities to be added if the demand is there,” the statement said.