The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is calling on education authorities to ramp up security at schools ahead of the September 19 start of classes, amid concern about the possibility of gunplay reaching the island’s educational institutions.
BUT president Rudy Lovell said in a statement that while the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the teaching and learning process remain foremost in educators’ minds, the union is worried about the recent spike in gun crime in society and how that might make its way into schools.
He noted that some primary schools are without security guards, which leaves students and teachers exposed if the violence should reach school compounds.
“There have been instances reported by members and even on record in the media of violent crimes perpetrated in close proximity to schools. It is against this backdrop that we urge those in authority to be proactive and not wait until something happens to respond to this issue,” Lovell said.
“We hope that the problem of a lack of security guards at some schools can be speedily rectified.”
Lovell’s comments came on the heels of prominent youth activist Roger Husbands warning, in an interview with Barbados TODAY, that some members of violent gangs are among the island’s school population. He called on law enforcement officials and the Ministry of Education to take precautions.
During a press conference last Friday, Attorney General Dale Marshall sought to assure Barbadians that they are generally safe considering that the recent incidents were a result of conflict between rival groups.
Meanwhile, Lovell said the BUT is concerned about the Ministry’s practice of transferring teachers at the start of the new school year with as little as one week’s notice.
He said that in many instances, that did not allow teachers to make adequate arrangements, especially for their children.
“Once again, the BUT calls for the stipulated notice of six weeks to be given to facilitate a smooth relocation for all teachers,” the union president said.
Lovell stressed, however, that despite their concerns, the BUT membership indicated at a recent meeting that they are ready to return to the classroom.
He said the concerns they raised do not diminish their commitment to teaching and noted that the BUT continues to discuss these issues with the Ministry.
Barbados TODAY’s efforts to reach Minister of Education Kay McConney and Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw for comment on the BUT’s concerns have so far been unsuccessful.