Who really is to blame?
By CASWELL FRANKLYN | Sun, April 22, 2012 - 12:00 AM()
The image of the Alexandra School, as a revered educational institution, has taken a battering during the last few years principally because it has been constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Even when something positive happened there, it was quickly overshadowed by the incessant wrangling among those who are placed there to nurture the young minds that are entrusted to their care.
Whoever you blame for the situation at Alexandra, one thing is clear: the school can be considered as failing in its mission.
Those who want to apportion blame would be quick to attribute the responsibility for the chaos at Speightstown on the principal. But is that so? Granted, he is the appointed leader, but he does not employ himself.
Even though I readily concede that the principal is not totally at fault for the long drawn out feud, he must bear some responsibility for the chaos. After all, he is the leader and the industrial warfare has broken out on his watch.
Clearly, the principal and the majority of his staff are unable to manage the breakdown of relationships that has been simmering for almost a decade.
It cannot be allowed to continue, but whose responsibility is it for dealing with this situation? The Constitution at section 94 has ultimately placed the responsibility in the hands of the Public Service Commission (PSC). Despite that, the Prime Minister rushed in where angels feared to tread, and his entry into the fray has only unnecessarily complicated matters and extended the time for a resolution to the detriment of the very ones that matter most of all – the children.
From all reports, the teachers’ representative, the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU), has done everything to get this problem resolved, but their efforts have largely been ignored. Only when they resorted to strike action would the authorities do a little damage control, enough to pacify them until the next breakout of hostilities.
That approach is not working now, since teachers have been traumatized for too long and are apparently saying, thus far and no farther.
In spite of all their long suffering, they are being vilified for their stance.
A lot of crocodile tears are now being shed for the students, but where were those criers over the years when the children were forced to study and learn in a war zone?
The BSTU has been complaining to the Ministry [of Education] for years with little or no discernible action to bring relief. But what has happened to their complaints over the years?
The Public Service Act has set out a grievance handling procedure which mandates a period of 30 days to complete the stages of a grievance. So far, this dispute has taken in excess of seven years to complete the 30-day set of procedures.
Let’s assume that the complaints have so far not reach the PSC for whatever reason. They cannot deny knowledge of the conflict that has characterized Alexandra School unless they had taken a sabbatical on Mars.
Individually and collectively the members of the commission would have been aware of problems at the school, and since they also have original jurisdiction, they could have ordered an investigation.
For the sake of those children who are about to take examinations, the Prime Minister’s solution is no resolution at all.
This is a very simple matter: in order to bring some semblance of normalcy, in the short term, the PSC should order an investigation into the affairs at the school.
They should then place the principal on special leave, without prejudice to his rights, so that he would be away from duty and unable to hinder the process. The 30 teachers would then be free to instruct in an environment conducive to teaching and learning.
After the investigation is concluded, the PSC would have some basis for disciplinary action if deemed necessary.
Alternatively, they could do the humane thing and relieve any of the guilty parties of duty under the provisions of the Pensions Act so that they would not have to leave the Public Service empty-handed.
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