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ON REFLECTION: Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

Ricky Jordan

ON REFLECTION: Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

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Industrial relations expert and former Chief Labour Officer Elsworth Young couldn’t have hit the nail on the head more effectively when he said in yesterday’s SUNDAY SUN Big Interview that the ultimate option for the Alexandra School imbroglio was a miracle.
In this case such a comment shouldn’t be taken lightly, and I know at least two principals involved who are given to fervent prayer and will hold the possibility of divine intervention somewhere in their minds.
I also know that while this now two-week-old strike led by the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union is a heady ego trip for some of the parties involved, the majority are not enjoying what is happening, especially the students of Alexandra, their parents, their principal, their teachers and those who can clearly see signs of a school losing its good reputation.
So which way do we take when there seems to be no way? Even the Minister of Education, whom we clamoured for nationally to “do something”, has figuratively thrown his hands in the air by saying that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart may have to step into the fray.
Another sign of such hopelessness was when Sir Roy Trotman, arguably the most respected labour union voice in the Caribbean, described the situation as being “fractured beyond repair”.
So can the Prime Minister solve this? Can his years of law practice and study be brought to this case and have it settled with sound judgement, solid reasoning and thorough gathering of evidence from all parties involved?
Does Barbados, by now, need an industrial court?
Speedy resolution is now needed before even further damage occurs, for not only has the present standoff put the island’s two main trade unions, the Barbados Workers’ Union and the National Union of Public Workers, on opposing sides, but the road seems set for a downward spiral for Alexandra School.
The latter would indeed be unfortunate since I can recall another school suffering an even worse fate in the 1970s.              
When I sat the Common Entrance Exam, then known as the “screening test”, as a nine-year-old, The Lodge School was an elite boys’ institution second only to Harrison College.
By the time I left Combermere in 1981, hardly any parent wanted to send their children to Lodge and its reputation was basically floored three years later by the battle between principal C. Aurelius Smith and the Ministry of Education – which fired him.
Today, Alexandra is well on its way to reaching the stars, and I know this first-hand since my son spent five years there under the tutelage of great teachers and a great principal.
I am no industrial relations expert but I know it will take more than well articulated arguments, good sense or even goodwill to resolve the present “fracture”.
All the parties involved in this debacle should start today’s meetings with a solemn and meaningful word of prayer.