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EDITORIAL: Jones’ say critical now

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Jones’ say critical now

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The school year has opened on a controversial note as events at Alexandra School, simmering for sometime, have come to a bubbling head of sorts, with industrial action being taken by the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU).
It is singularly unfortunate when these developments occur, moreso when vital interests other than those of the parties directly involved are likely to be affected.
During this first week of the current term, the strike action has been confined to the school, and some parents and many of the teachers have had their say on what is a long-running situation between the principal and teachers.
There is now the threat of an escalation of the strike, and caught up in this vortex are some of the nation’s children whose interests and welfare we have no doubt that both sides are passionately concerned about.
We are left to wonder if there is something wrong with the process when a matter of this sort cannot be resolved before the stage is reached where the interests of our children are placed under stress. The educational process is unlike any other and the interests of our children cannot be suspended and jeopardized until these types of matters are dissolved.
It is a matter of concern that such an abrasive atmosphere exists at Alexandra School when it appears that harmonious atmospheres appear to be the order of the day at the other secondary schools. Without ascribing blame to any one party, this is a most material question which has to be answered quickly. It has been allowed to simmer just beneath the surface for far too long.
Alexandra School has a fine record.
It has produced many of this country’s leading citizens, and its refurbishment within recent years has provided students with the kind of physical atmosphere in which high quality intellectual output has become the rule rather than the exception.  
In an era in which education has become the passport to upward mobility for many of the poorer classes, it would be a great pity if the reputation of the school were to suffer from these recurring troubles.
The Ministry of Education has expressed the view that the BSTU has not followed the appropriate grievance procedure. If this is true, then this is a matter of some regret, for the procedures have been developed to prevent just the kind of situation which now presents itself.
We fear, however, that matters have moved so quickly that the usual procedures may not now be relevant to a solution. The stakes have been raised by the BSTU calling for Mr Jeff Broome’s separation from the school.
All the facts are not yet known, and it would be wrong to judge the merits of this issue prematurely or indeed without careful analysis of the information once it comes to hand, but we feel that the ministry’s statement by itself does not go far enough.
It is one thing to state that the agreed procedures have not been adhered to, but the situation cannot continue without the minister himself reporting to the people of Barbados, and telling us how he proposes that this matter be resolved.  
This is all the more imperative since the BSTU will be stepping up action by “withdrawing services at all the schools from lunchtime [Tuesday] in solidarity with their colleagues at the Alexandra School”.
We hold no brief either for the minister, the teachers or indeed the principal, but Minister of Education Ronald Jones has been a most communicative policymaker who shares his opinions on most matters of education with the media and the public. And that is as it should be.
The strike action at Alexandra is a matter of grave concern, and it must not be allowed to continue or flourish.
We urge the minister to take the public into his confidence and let the public know how he proposes to deal once and for all with this thorny problem.