Vendors outside the Grantley Adams Memorial School took to prayer today as their student-backed protest continued its second week, seeking divine intervention from an “enemy” that has banned them from selling snacks on campus during school hours.
“The enemy is after us, but this afternoon we thank you for what will come out of it… and we want to thank you Father God from the bottom of our hearts,” declared ‘Ms. B’, a 30-year veteran seller at the school.
The prayer followed Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s promise on Tuesday of a resolution to the ongoing impasse.
With that promise, it appears vendors suddenly have the upper hand for the first time since the drama started to unfold at the St Joseph high school, named for the nation’s first premier, who was a long-serving MP for the parish.
On Wednesday at lunchtime, the aroma of meals was rising once again as vendors, emboldened by the Prime Minister’s promise, stood their ground.
Led by the veteran vendor, Ms. B transformed the controversial bus shelter under which they were forbidden from vending into a house of prayer.
“We thank you for what you are doing in our lives. You told us to let our lights shine, in this dark world,” she prayed.
Last Friday, the Ministry of Education threw its support behind the school’s administration, stating that after visits by Acting Education Minister Lucille Moe and other officials, it was satisfied that procedure was followed in the removal of the vendors.
Since then, there appears to have been a dramatic shift in the ministry’s stance.
In a remarkable turn of events, President of the Barbados Association of Retailers, Vendors and Entrepreneurs (BARVEN) Allister Alexander revealed that ministry officials had finally started engaging in dialogue.
“We have already had preliminary communication with the Ministry of Education and we’re just waiting to further that dialogue and to roll out the details of the resolution of this issue,” he said.
Alexander, who threatened increased action if the vendor’s demands were not met, applauded Prime Minister Mottley’s response. He also praised the defiant students, who mounted a protest and boycotted the school’s canteen for at least a week, complaining that prices were too high and food was below their standard of taste.
“Democracy without forward leadership is a people going nowhere and we are thankful for the forward leading and intervention of the Prime Minister. We are thankful for her understanding that these issues must be resolved in the interest of the national and social good,” said the vendor’s representative.
“History is going to honour the children at Grantley Adams Memorial School and November 2018 will be a marked date in its calendar,” he declared.
Alexander said that in addition to having vendors better accommodated, students must be given freedom to choose what they wanted to eat.
“To tell you the truth, I feel good if she [Prime Minister Mottley] really gets involved, because it is totally unfair to the vendors. We have to make a living like everyone else,” said vendor Sonia Stoute.
Last Friday, police informed Stoute, that after 15 years selling there, she, along with at least five other vendors would no longer be allowed to continue.
But on Tuesday, the Prime Minister indicated: “There’s a place for all – the canteen concessionaire and the long-standing vendors. You cannot have it open to large numbers, but there can be order.”
Adams Memorial teachers mounted their own silent protest, defying directives from the Ministry of Education and the school’s management to stop patronising the vendors.