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ONLY HUMAN: Alexandra – a no-win situation

Sanka Price

ONLY HUMAN: Alexandra – a no-win situation

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In this oongoing Alexandra School impasse, we are at the edge of a precipice and something dramatic needs to be done with immediate effect to pull it back.
The inflammatory statements from both sides are making it difficult to find common ground, and now that the battle lines are fully demarcated and the interested parties are queuing behind who they think is right with a no-retreat, no-surrender stance, what proposal can the Ministry of Education put on the table that would be acceptable to all parties involved?
It’s hard to see how a compromise can be reached in these circumstances as neither side seems inclined to want to work with the other.
The teachers want principal Jeff Broomes “separated” from the school, which is akin to workers who have difficulties with their manager deciding that they can’t work with him and want him removed.
If Broomes is indeed “separated”, it would be a successful blow for workers’ power. Realistically, though, how probable is this given the precedent it would set?
At the same time, how practical is it to have the majority of teaching staff from one school transferred to other schools to ensure peaceful coexistence? Again, realistically, how probable is this?
That said, both Broomes and the teachers are career professionals dedicated to their vocation – they are not rabble-rousers. So for their relationship to have irretrievably broken down as evidenced from the statements they are levelling at each other, it stands to reason that the mechanisms put in place to avoid such developments have not worked nor were allowed to work.
At the time of writing, a meeting was scheduled for tomorrow with the parties involved to finally resolve this matter.
All of Barbados hopes a settlement will be reached to ease the suffering of the Alexandra students, many of whom have not received any formal tuition in the past four days.
A resolution would also avoid similar industrial action at the other older secondary schools where membership of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) is dominant.
Since much has already been said on this matter, I prefer to examine first, the impact this industrial action is having on some children, and secondly, the implications of the event.
As the parent of an Alexandra student, I have watched my daughter agonize over this impasse as she tries to understand why it is taking place. Though I’m pleased that she reads the latest news on it each morning before heading to school, I see how badly she feels and realizes that there is no end to the chaos.
Being a 12-year-old, my daughter believes in her teachers and the principal, and still hangs on to their every word.
The prospect that any of them may have to leave the school to solve the present impasse therefore fills her with horror.
When I quiz her on what some of her classmates are saying, she says they too want their teachers to return, as well as Broomes.
For these pre-teens, Alexandra would not be the same without the present crop of teachers and their principal.
Educating children is the primary purpose of a school. Therefore, no matter what deal is struck tomorrow, I’m hoping that the students are no longer disadvantaged and deprived of their tuition.
In seeking to broker a deal, I trust that each warring party remembers that as sports events dominate this term, children already lose precious classroom tuition hours, so any more time lost to industrial action would only hurt them academically, especially those preparing to sit CXCs in May.
For certain, whatever deal is reached there will be no winners in this fight. Broomes, the protesting 30-odd teachers and the near 1 000 students will come out of this impasse bruised and the image of their beloved institution tarnished.
My second point deals with the need for real reform in the manner in which matters are handled and things are done in Government to effect real change in a timely, efficient manner.
Those who read this column last week would recall that I was critical of Government officials saying “it cannot be business as usual” but doing little afterwards to clearly demonstrate attempts are being made to implement a more efficient way to do business.
This long-running battle between Broomes and the teachers at Alexandra is a classic case of Public Service inertia, where precious little was done, thereby causing the matter to fester until it eventually erupted last week.
Had there been more timely intervention when the matter first came up, then it might have been nipped in the bud.
In closing, I must ask why the Barbados Union of Teachers and its president Karen Best have not said anything as yet. Does her silence suggest she is not in favour of the BSTU’s action? Or is there more to her silence than meets the eye?