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Union says it is not behind circulated memo

by Barbados Today
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At least one trade union representing local teachers is distancing itself from an anonymous letter condemning Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw’s stance on corporal punishment, contending that the comments, made last week had relegated teachers to mere “glorified babysitters”.

On Monday, a memorandum from the group, ‘Concerned Teachers Association of Barbados’ was circulated on social media. Bearing the title: ‘Betrayed by Government,’ the letter suggested that Bradshaw’s comments in Parliament were highly offensive to educators.

Late last week, the Minister of Education warned that teachers who flogged students without authorization would feel the full weight of the law.

In response, the memo charged that the minister’s comments had “diminished their authority” and “obliterated and illegitimated” what was often used as a last resort to maintain discipline, among other charges.

Late this evening, the Barbados Union of Teachers weighed in on the debate starting with the proceedings in the Well of Parliament last Tuesday noting: “The union’s membership continues to reiterate its considerable dissatisfaction with the tone of certain passages of the dialogue. The union submits that while there was an undeniable degree of merit in the disclosures during the exercise, we are alarmed by any utterance(s) which may serve to bring the teaching service into disrepute.”

On the issue of corporal punishment referred to Section 18 of regulations which confers to the principal, deputy principal and senior teachers the right to administer corporal punishment the union added: “The current crises in education did not arrive unannounced. Neither did they suddenly materialize overnight. It took decades for us to reach this juncture.”

Meanwhile, the memo in circulation charged that teachers were currently plagued with “constant violence, abusive language, poor working conditions and many other negatives which occur within our schools,” and in response, spoke “loudly and clearly” during last year’s general election indicating that they wanted a change.

While acknowledging that “bad apples do exist” in the school system, the memo warned the education minister against criminalizing all teachers. It instead urged Bradshaw to fix ‘the system’ and the society instead of fixing teachers.

“You have just unleashed a generation of disrespect that you will see manifesting itself in our society,” the memo warned.

The Minister of Education could not be reached for comment, however President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) who last week voiced her displeasure at the minister’s comments, on Monday afternoon sought to distance herself and her union from the circulating message.

“All that we as a union in the BSTU feel has been stated under the auspices of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union. We have stated our position, we have formulated a response to the comments made in Parliament and that is all this union is associated with,” said Redman.

In a wide-ranging statement published in the Friday, March 8 edition of Barbados TODAY, the BSTU expressed concern at the “tone and content of some aspects of and omissions from the minister’s speech as they related to corporal punishment.”

Stressing that the union did not support the abuse of children in any form, it did not see “the regulated and judicious use of corporal punishment as abuse,” adding that corporal punishment was most often used as a last resort for serious infractions.

The union’s response also expressed disappointment with the lack of consultation with them on the matter and lack of an alternative.

When pressed about the anonymous memo, Redman said: “I don’t know who is behind it and I don’t know what their motivations are, and the union is distancing itself from the article.”

“We have responded officially under the heading of our union and we are associated with no other comments or correspondence and messages that are in circulation and I want to make that very clear,” said Redman. kareemsmith@barbadostoday.bb

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