The two-week saga at the Grantley Adams Memorial Secondary School has ended favorably for at least one vendor, who will be plying her trade from inside the school’s compound from Monday. The future of at least three other vendors is much more uncertain as they have been invited to follow a process outlined by the Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw and apply for fresh permission to sell there.
This is the ‘compromise’ position revealed by the minister following her meetings earlier today with the parties involved including the ministry officials and the school’s Board of Management.
At the end of the session, a large gathering, including representatives from the embattled vendors, the Barbados Association of Retailers, Vendors and Entrepreneurs (BARVEN), teachers among others, converged under the controversial bus stop outside the school to hearing the minister’s update on the matter which has thrown the school into the national spotlight in recent weeks.
“We have indicated that “Ms. B”, who has been here for over 20 years, who was selling snacks, that she will be able to return onto the premises on Monday,” the minister said as she updated members of the media.
“In terms of competition, we recognize that what she was selling was not really in direct competition with the canteen,” she added.
However the fate of the other vendors, who were asked to leave the school’s premises by police at the request of the education ministry, remains in limbo.
“In the meantime, they are free to apply to the board of the school to be able to start the process of looking at what type of food they are selling to see if there’s any direct competition with the canteen operator to see if things can be done differently.
“So I believe we have found a compromise in the situation, but we are also going to have to put specific guidelines in place going forward for vendors to ensure that they are compliant with the requirements of health and certainly with the ministry of education as well.”
Minister Bradshaw says all vendors selling outside schools across the country will soon have to satisfy certain guidelines to be rolled out by the ministry.
“We can’t have a situation where they may be competing with the canteen operators, but we have to find a balance. So if the canteen is selling a range of foods, but they’re not selling rotis or pizzas, then perhaps we need to engage a conversation through the correct process
. . . where persons can apply and basically meet the requirements of the Ministry of Health and certainly the Ministry of Education to ensure that they can be accommodated on the premises,” she said.
The education minister however indicated the ministry would be seeking to ensure that longstanding vendors at schools across the country would be given preference.
“Those persons, we want to make sure will continue to be the eyes and ears of our students. There are many times when those individuals know sometimes more about our students and what is happening, than sometimes their own parents,” Minister Bradshaw added.
The problems at the St Joseph school started with protests from angry students, who complained that the food from the school’s canteen was too expensive and did not satisfy their tastes. It was on this basis that they lobbied for permission to once again purchase food from outside the school’s gate.
An intervention from acting Minister of Education, Lucille Moe last Friday appeared to anger some when the ministry officials indicated that the ministry was siding with the school’s board.
This decision, along with the removal of vendors by police officers prompted BARVEN’s President, Allister Alexander to threaten action of the type Barbados had never seen before.
Following Minister’s Bradshaw’s announcement however, BARVEN was singing a different tune.
“It seems to be somewhat a reasonable proposal,” said public relations officer Valentino Barrow.
“When we talk about the people represented inside the canteen, who as she mentioned are vendors too, we have to take into consideration their concerns. However, we cannot fail to also address the vendors who are on the streets or who line the sidewalks to provide things for the children,” Barrow said.
He encouraged the unlucky vendors to follow the Ministry’s process.