Several teachers at the Ellerton Primary School stayed off the job today in an apparent response to the Ministry of Education’s perceived failure to adequately address their security concerns.
Barbados TODAY understands that earlier this week and for the second time in as many months, a seemingly mentally unstable man barged onto the premises. Barbados TODAY visited the school, which currently has neither perimeter fencing nor a security guard, but was unable to ascertain if classes were disrupted by the absences.
On January 7, the man, who was later picked up by police, barged onto the compound, alarming teachers as they were attending a meeting in preparation for the start of the school term. On Monday the man returned, this time coming into contact with students, who were reportedly terrified by the encounter.
“Luckily no one was attacked. The first time it happened it was planning day so no children were around but children were around on Monday. This time around he was spinning around in some incoherent manner and also had a conversation or two with some of the children. The kids were quite shaken by the ordeal,” said one teacher, who did not want to be identified.
Another teacher said, “This situation cannot be allowed to continue because these are people’s children that are being put at risk. That’s all I have to say.”
On this occasion teachers and their bargaining agent, the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), were not satisfied with the reactionary response, calling in the police or dispatching officers from the Ministry of Education to the school.
“So far the ministry’s response has been to send an officer who comes and takes notes and we have to wait and see. So yes some of the teachers stayed off of the job, that was their response and I have been in conversation with a few of the officers,” said BUT president Sean Spencer.
Back in January Spencer had lamented that the school in question has been without a proper perimeter fence for over ten years.
“The fence has been very porous. It could be one where you could say that the poles and the fence have long divorced and gone their separate ways,” Spencer said.
The union boss said at the time that the incident brought into sharp focus teachers’ concern regarding the security at the island’s schools and he queried whether a more serious incident would have to take place for measures at schools to be urgently improved.
“And it really and truly is not a tenable situation. The teaching fraternity is really and truly highly desirous of seeing that these needs be addressed urgently . . . and we are going to have to look into this matter more thoroughly,” he promised.