Violence in schools, outstanding appointments, inclusion of teachers’ bargaining body in plans and policies and two unresolved cases of unfair dismissal are just some of the big-ticket items which the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) wants Government to tackle early in the new year.
BSTU President Mary Redman also disclosed that the union wants to meet with the Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw or the acting minister at the start of the new year to try to settle complaints made by teachers against some school board members and principals.
“We are starting [the New Year] with a meeting at the Minister of Education with senior ministry officials including the Ministry of Education. We are hoping to have one early next year even if it means doing so with the acting minister. We still have a series of outstanding issues that need to be addressed coming over from the last administration when it was very difficult for us to get meetings at all, much less have our matters addressed,” Redman told Barbados TODAY.
“We still have two cases of unfair dismissal. One particularly worrisome one at St Leonard’s School that must be addressed. Appointments are high on our agenda. We have persons that should have been appointed from January 1, 2008 with the proclamation of the Public Service Act…who qualified under that Act [and] who have still not been appointed or who have been recommended for appointment, but their letters of appointment have the wrong date…they don’t reflect 1 January, 2008; and we don’t understand why that is such a problem to rectify,” she stressed.
The BSTU leader said too that they want the Ministry to tackle teachers’ complaints against some boards of management whose functions are a cause for concern. She said there are also serious concerns regarding the professionalism and management practices of some ministry personnel and some principals in schools.
“There are far too many complaints by our members in relation to both of those issues,” Redman told Barbados TODAY without going into specifics.
She said the ongoing problem of violence in schools continues to pose a real danger to teachers across the island.
“Student on teacher violence continues to be a major problem for us; and that violence, also takes the form of verbal assault on teachers as well. We are having too much of that…and to my mind there are still not effective solutions coming from the ministry as it relates to a dedicated institution to deal with students who do not fit into a normal school environment and who need special attention in that regard,” the teachers’ spokesperson suggested.
Redman is also pushing for the ministry to consult with the union on two programmes in schools, which she said were badly implemented, the Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence (CCSLC) and Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ).
“They are causing problems in many schools in the way that they have been implemented; in the way they have been operationalized. Of course, there was a lack of consultation with the union in relation to those programmes. The last regime went ahead and implemented without consultation and so, our members were not prepared, either from the level of the union or the level of the ministry,” said the BSTU head.
Redman told Barbados TODAY that there was also a lack of training, especially with respect to the CCSLC and a lack of resources to support both programmes. She said the schools do not have the right kind of facilities to conduct the CVQ programme resulting in children leaving school without having attained the CVQ qualification.
“So in many ways, those two programmes are internally and externally inefficient in too many areas. We need to have a sit down with the ministry and delve into those areas in the ways that we should. In many ways, you are wasteful of Government funds; and we need to be able to make the types of contribution at the level of the ministry that we used to before,” Redman insisted.
The BSTU head also longed for the day when the BSTU would no longer have to be “putting out fires” as it did in the past 10 years and return to being consulted at every level of the conceptualization, development and implementation of educational programmes.
“That had stopped for the last 10 years and it gave rise to a lot of problems in the schools. We need to get back to the status quo ante in that regard where we can have the type of input, that we have the expertise, the practical day-to-day experience to give so that we can make the type of contribution to the development of educational policy and practice in the country,” said the union boss.
Other issues on the BSTU’s priority list are safety, health and security in schools and the still unresolved matter of payment for teachers supervising school-based assessments.