The Anglican Bishop of Barbados has broken his silence on last month’s controversial Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) survey, describing it as an underhanded way of seeking information from children and a misuse of power that should never be allowed to happen again.
And he wants to know why officials were gathering that information in the first place.
A month after the October survey, which questioned 733 first-form students about their gender identity, sexual activity and drug use, Bishop Michael Maxwell said the administering of the survey without parental consent should be considered a form of disrespect to principals, parents and the students.
The head of the local Anglican Church told Barbados TODAY that while some people believe that children were aware of some of the issues raised in the survey, “nevertheless, I still think that parental consent should have been sought before anything like this should have been given to our children”.
“I personally know one or two of the principals of these schools and it shocked me and I was wondering how did my friend or this principal allow this to happen, to then hear by the way that not even the principals were necessarily aware of the content, and that it was the Ministry of Education’s officers who were sent in to administer this particular test. I was very disappointed with what happened,” he said.
There was much public outrage after Barbados TODAY brought the test to the public’s attention through an October 4 article in which parents voiced their concerns about the invasive survey.
Both the IDB and the Ministry of Education subsequently issued apologies indicating that the latter had objected to certain questions that were to be removed before the test was put before the students at five secondary schools, but the IDB had gone ahead with the original survey.
In addition to veteran educators and academics and Barbadians generally speaking out about the issue, scores of parents, supporters and advocates marched from Kensington Oval to Independence Square in protest on October 22.
Bishop Maxwell said that while the issue was not being discussed in the public as much as it was last month, he still wanted answers about the purpose of the survey and what the information gathered from students would have been used for.
“…. I haven’t heard anything coming out … as to why those particular questions had to be asked at this point in time,” he said.
However, reacting to calls for Minister of Education Kay McConney to be fired over the issue, Bishop Maxwell said he did not believe such an extreme move was necessary, “unless she herself was privy to this information and that it was actually going to be on the papers and issued and no parental guidance was to be sought from it”.
“I would say, well, if you had all of that information and you still allowed it to go forward then I think you should step down. But I think that she herself was unaware of a number of issues or how it was presented. So I would not necessarily say she needs to step down at this stage,” he said.
“I myself used to teach Health and Family Life Education so I am aware of some of the content that would be shared with the students, which is the general information that is comfortable I think to be shared in those classes,” Maxwell added.