Recent pronouncements by Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw warning teachers against flogging, are rubbing one of the educators’ major bargaining agents the wrong way.
A recent release from the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) said that Bradshaw’s advice to parents to report such cases to her ministry, while urging law enforcement to prosecute teachers who flog children, serves to undermine the relationship between parents and teachers.
“The pronouncement of encouraging parents to visit the Ministry of Education and request for police to do their work as it relates to the matter of corporal punishment, may undermine attempts to service and strengthen the relationship between parents and teachers,” the statement pointed out.
Bradshaw in response to a question from Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn, regarding the recent suspension of a teacher for allegedly beating a student, made it clear that there would be a “zero tolerance” approach to such incidents. She also made reference to another incident where the principal flogged an entire class of students.
“I received photos of the bruises on the children’s buttocks and their backs,” said the Minister while adding that “What was interesting was that the grandparent called me because of concerns that the principal . . . instituted punishment twice. After the beating, the children were made to run around the pasture and then made to stand outside of the classroom.”
However, reminding teachers that according to the law, only principals are allowed to administer floggings or delegate those responsibilities to the deputy principal or senior teacher, the union charged that the discussion during the Estimates debate in Parliament on March 5, lacked context around the myriad challenges faced by teachers on daily basis.
“With respect to suspected cases of abuse of students, the lawful avenues for recourse were correctly and readily identified for parents during the discussion in the Well of Parliament. Most disconcertingly though, little mention was made of the rights of teachers. This omission prompts the union to place the following into the record: within the large complex of legal system exists a hierarchy of laws and importance of each law is measured by its source and permanence,” the release stated, noting that discipline was one of the biggest problems in the education system.
The BUT further contended that the tone of the discussions in Parliament appeared not to factor in the many times that teachers have gone above and beyond the call of duty for their charges.
“Several members of the BUT and the wider teaching fraternity, provide assistance for needy students out of compassion and a humane desire to see these pupils continue to attend school regularly in order to make full use of the educational opportunities afforded them,” the BUT stressed.