At least two Opposition parties have condemned an incident which they interpret as an inappropriate attempt by members of the current Government to gain political mileage by using a group of unsuspecting minors at the St. George Primary School.
In fact, Opposition leader Bishop Joseph Atherley is demanding an apology from the Ministry of Education over the “deplorable”, “disgusting”, and “insensitive” gesture that was captured on video, seemingly without the consent of parents.
The “troubling” video captures the school children, in the presence of prominent members of the Barbados Labor Party (BLP) Government, being prompted to repeatedly shout “Moore! Moore! Moore!” apparently as a show of support for the party’s St. George North by-election candidate Toni Moore, who posed with the children along with Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Attorney General Dale Marshall, Minister of Tourism Senator Lisa Cummins and others.
“I don’t mind politicians intermixing with even minor primary children if you are going to encourage respect for, and even participation in life in Government and governance. Even if they project themselves as role models, I think those things are healthy. But to use primary school children in the context of a by-election as partisan political props, I think goes beyond the pale,” the Opposition Leader declared.
“I really would want to call on the Minister of Education to offer an explanation as to the circumstances that would have led to that. I really would want to call on her to call out her colleagues.
“I hope the Ministry of Education responsible for the island’s children within
the school setting, would offer an apology to the school and certainly to the parents. It certainly borders on the reprehensible. You can’t use minors in these partisan, political situations. I am really disappointed in this,” he added.
Democratic Labour Party (DLP) candidate in the upcoming by-election Floyd Reifer also expressed concern at the willingness of Prime Minister Mottley and Moore to “manipulate innocent children” for political gain.
“It looks desperate,” he said in a written statement.
“I am more concerned about the children, and the fact is, they didn’t even receive permission from the parents to use them in their political grandstanding. It’s sad to see that this entire campaign has been relegated to manipulating children, throwing derogatory insults and wukkin up in a school hall in the middle of COVID-19. The Barbados Labour Party has to be ashamed,” Reifer added.
A BLP spokesman told Barbados TODAY that the party would not be responding to opposition claims of manipulation, but noted that the photo opportunity was a spontaneous response to the children’s adoration for PM Mottley.
“Generally, children are pleased to have leaders that they adore,” said the spokesman.
He indicated that while in the area of the school, the children called out to the Prime Minister and ran toward her team.
“It was spontaneous. Teachers then asked the students to put on their masks and urged them to follow the protocols as established while the Prime Minister came over to greet them. The party does not encourage people to flaunt the COVID-19 regulations that have been put in place to ensure that all Barbadians remain safe,” it added.
When contacted, President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd said the issue was discussed by the union’s executive council and a decision was taken not to offer an official position on it. He however acknowledged that some members denounced the actions.
“We have seen a number of protocols being breached and that kind of stuff, but because of certain other implications, we will not comment on it at this time,” he told Barbados TODAY.
The incident also did not escape the eyes of a senior member of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) who condemned the “mockery” of social distancing and any move by adults to take advantage of students’ “childish innocence”.
“I am an adult; I am a parent; I am an educator, and the video of this particular episode which I witnessed yesterday afternoon was very disturbing to me. And to think that there are some adult people who actually think that this brand of use of little children is A OK! Ominous to my mind,” he added.