The success of our infant republic will depend on the Barbadian people’s collective will and capacity to think hard, think critically and act with some degree of moral tenacity. The much-overused term these days is “resilience”.
The answers to the issues we confront will not come by way of symbolism and show and well-articulated talk, either at home or abroad.
The 11th-hour mess surrounding the transfer of principals, deputy principals and teachers does not lend confidence to our efforts to abolish the 11-plus exam and successfully implement the most thoroughgoing structural educational reforms attempted since the Mitchinson Commission of the 1870s. That reform initiative, as so far suggested, is fraught with logistical difficulties related to curriculum changes, infrastructural provisioning, and administrative and teaching staffing. It also has social implications in a class-based culture in which Barbadians still live and act within certain socio-cultural demarcations.
The current Ministry of Education is not showing itself to be adept at managing the educational space. Changes to the leadership of schools have been done before, but the numerical scale of the changes at the start of this academic year was unheard of.
Schools require some degree of continuity for their effectiveness. What is particularly exasperating must be the lateness of the notifications – late at night or on the morning of the start of a new school year is beyond comprehension. What are we running here? A circus? Schools are already facing seemingly insurmountable challenges coming from the culture in which they function. Why make matters worse?
The whole appointment thing may be more about some persons seeking to climb to the top of the educational establishment and retire in a few years’ time at a top pension rather than about any substantive sense of educational and pedagogical vision. Let’s hope that is not the case.
No new principal taking on a school with which he or she is totally unacquainted can do well without the support of the school’s existing staff. Let us hope that for the sake of the children, the various schools and the education system as a whole, teachers will lend that support wherever they are. By the same token, let us hope that new principals do not come with their own baggage – personal, political or otherwise.