Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw says gender identity issues have not yet surfaced in Barbados’ public schools, and it is not a priority for the administration at this time.
She made the Government’s position clear in response to a question posed by Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley on day one of the Estimates debate today.
Making reference to a controversy late last year at the privately-owned Providence Secondary School, involving a male student whose parents said he identified as a female and wanted to wear a girl’s uniform, Atherley questioned: “Has the Ministry thought about the fact that a Government school may be faced with such a challenge and, if so, how would it be handled?”
Bradshaw said she had spoken to the school’s principal on that matter and as far as she was aware, no such issue had been raised in Government educational institutions.
“When I spoke to the principal, I said we had to respect the laws and any private institution would have to comply with the legal framework. We respect law and order and human rights, and as these issues arise we will deal with them,” she said.
As Atherley tried to get a more pointed response, Bradshaw reiterated the Government’s position and said there were bigger issues currently facing the school system.
“We have been confronted with issues of home-schooling and we have dealt with that as an administration, as well as with students who may need extra time, so to weasel into this debate the discussion of an issue that has not confronted us in public education would do an injustice to this Ministry and administration.
“Right now, we are preoccupying our minds with other issues such as violence in schools and the use of drugs. We are learning that children are using drugs at a younger age, and some new ones have crept into society such as the synthetic ones. Previously, we used to have police officers coming into the schools to educate children about the drugs on the market, but the previous administration eroded that kind of investment,” the Education Minister said.
In response to another question from the Opposition Leader on overseas-based universities setting up campuses in Barbados, Bradshaw said: “There is interest out there from other institutions interested in investing. Many of these places want to find real estate to purchase or invest in and the Ministry has procedures in place for this; as applications come we will deal with them accordingly, and we have spoken to the Ministry of Tourism in terms of urging them to market Barbados as a destination where such institutions can be established.”
Minister Bradshaw added that from next month, Government will be seeking information from all stakeholders by holding a series of meetings and setting up an email address to receive comments on the Mia Mottley-led administration’s planned education reforms, including the proposed abolition of the Common Entrance Examination.