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#SpeakingOut – We need more than promises

by Barbados Today
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.

Since the May 2018 general elections, many things have changed on the surface at the Ministry of Education. First, the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (METI) became the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training (METVT).

On April 26, 2021, Dr. Idamay Denny was appointed as the Head of the new Education Reform Unit. The Unit has found nothing of substance on which to report to the public in that time. There has been little dialogue with teachers. 

We have the new Education Technical Management Unit instead of the old Education Project Management Unit. The Unit has a new name but public schools are still falling apart all over Barbados because of neglect and mismanagement. 

We have the new OpenEMIS which replaced abusSTAR. The data collected never helped while we used abusSTAR. The OpenEMIS still does not help the ministry’s decision making because the data is just collected for the sake of collection.  

We have had different Ministers of Education. We have different Permanent Secretaries. We have different Chief Education Officers. Several of them are new square pegs with lots of letters behind their names in old square holes. 

We still have the 11+ despite all the declarations from high office. The Prime Minister, who was the Minister of Education (from 1994 to 2001), Santia Bradshaw as the Minister of Education (during 2018-2022) and the current Minister of Education Kay McConney have talked the talk and continue to talk the talk. Just the talk. 

We have a different Minister of Labour, Colin Jordan, who on April 21 this year said that some aspects of the Safety and Health at Work Act (SHaW) are being clarified to reduce misinterpretation. According to Barbados TODAY, the minister spoke specifically on the Right to Refuse Dangerous Work outlining that serious health hazards are defined as “a potential source of significant danger to the health of an employee, which may cause life threatening, irreversible or long-term impacts, but is not limited to an occupational disease.” 

On April 24, officials of the education ministry, principals and teachers met for a discussion. Not to discuss the dangers such as violence in schools, but to discuss the new National Nutrition Policy. Violence and unsafe conditions in our schools remain concerns; concerns without any useful policy initiative or corrective action by those loitering in the Elsie Payne Complex. 

Education cannot only address HSSE matters when the air conditioning system in the ministry stops working. 

Messrs. McConney and Jordan, and your Cabinet colleagues, please resolve the issue of violence as well as the numerous Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) issues in our schools. The PM tells the public, “incline your hearts to wisdom”. It is time for all Cabinet members to incline their hearts to wisdom, because these issues are sources of significant danger to the health of students and school staff. And everyone in those schools matters. 

Earlier this month, the CARICOM Heads of Government attended the Regional Symposium: Violence as a Public Health Issue – The Crime Challenge in Trinidad where Prime Minister Mottley was particularly vocal. 

If crime and violence are inextricably linked – as PM Mottley reminds us and the late David Thompson preached in the past – teachers are facing an existential threat in the schools and therefore, so are their students. 

Barbados, we need an intervention in our schools. We need more than promises.

Paula Sealy

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