Teaches in Barbados are very upset with the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training headed by Minister Santia Bradshaw over what the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) charges is the disrespect of local educators in an environment where teachers’ concerns are ignored.
And the teachers are putting pen to paper to make sure their frustrations are officially raised.
Barbados TODAY has obtained a strongly-worded letter, highlighting serious concerns about a slew of issues including persistent environmental health concerns, underhanded attempts to change terms and conditions of employment and the appearance of blatant financial mismanagement of schools which raise questions of corruption.
Days after the release of some controversial statements by the Education Minister about the attitudes of some teachers to their jobs, BUT President Sean Spencer has declared the time for passive responses to their own grievances had ended.
According to Spencer, despite numerous leadership changes over the past 18 years, the ministry continues to neglect the glaring need for “managerial reorganisation” to improve its responsiveness to issues in the education system.
“The succession of changes in management personnel has yet to produce any measurable, meaningful or significant improvement in the operational efficiency of the ministry. It is very much business as usual in education,” the union boss contended.
Spencer took the government to task over the continuous denial of long leave for qualifying teachers since the academic year 2014/2015, indicating teachers were becoming increasingly frustrated given their heavy workload. According to the union president, the prolonged situation appears to be an attempt to change the terms and conditions of their employment and he is demanding that if the ministry intends to do so, proper negotiations must occur.
Turning his attention to government’s handling of extended environmental issues at the Lawrence T. Gay the Maria Holder Nursery, the Lester Vaughan, Sharon Primary, the Ann Hill School, Mount Tabor Primary, Coleridge & Parry, Springer Memorial and other schools, Spencer accused government of withholding critical information from teachers in the face of work-related illnesses.
The union leader further claimed that the current administration was presiding over a Ministry of Education which continued to disregard sections of the Education Act, the Financial Management Audit Act and other pieces of legislation.
More specifically, it pointed to the fact that only two of the country’s 21 public schools had submitted financial statements for 2017 and 2018 to be audited. The Combermere School has reportedly not submitted the requisite statements between March 2011 and 2018.
“Among the other public educational institutions, the financial statements of the SJPI (formerly the Polytechnic) had not been audited for over ten years, the audits of the financial statements of the Community College for the financial years ended 31st March 2014 to 2018 were being conducted and the accounts of Erdiston College for the financial years ended 31st March 2013 to 2018 had not been submitted for audit,” the letter continued.
It went on to highlight a number of other vexing issues that include inadequate water supply for toilets, rodent infestation, poor management of staff transfers, nepotism on school boards, lack of confirmation letters for appointed teachers, absence of security protocols, non-payment of increments and recent searches of vehicles and property of teachers entering the Frederick Smith Secondary School.
On November 15th the union hand-delivered a letter to the ministry, requesting an urgent meeting of all teachers with relevant authorities but up until December 6th, there had been no formal response.
Nevertheless, Spencer has challenged educators to be resolute in the fight to ensure they are afforded an industrial environment which is fit for purpose, properly functioning and in which they could be confident.
“Our concerns and grievances must be acknowledged and satisfactorily addressed. Where and when ignored, we must pledge and ensure as a body, that our actions express our commitment to solidarity,” he declared.
“The members of the union are reminded that we must not remain passive in the face of the disregard for our concerns by those in authority. We cannot allow our cause to be continually ignored and silently mortgage our nation’s future.
“Teachers, it is abundantly clear. We must do for ourselves what no one else can do for us,” the letter concluded.