EDITORIAL: Alexandra yet in limbo
THE DECISION TO APPOINT a commission of inquiry into the Alexandra School has not quelled the fires which have been raging at that venerable institution for some time now. We wait with bated breath, as all Barbados does, to see how the issue will develop henceforth.
Yet the clear impact of the decision seems to have raised the level of consciousness of Barbadians about how power should be exercised within a democracy when seemingly intractable problems arise.
The people expect that the power they have reposed in the hands of the Government and the Prime Minister will be duly exercised to protect the vital interests at stake in any dispute that has the potential to disrupt and permanently damage some part of the common good.
The Alexandra School problem is one such issue in which vital interests are at stake, and which has the potential to harm, perhaps irretrievably, the interests of those students taking CXC examinations this summer.
The announcement about the commission has not cooled tempers nor has it induced a return to school by those teachers who had called off the strike earlier while Prime Minister Stuart was said to be dealing with the issue.
The immediate dispute is between Mr Broome and some teachers, and that is a tricky enough problem in itself. However, the Prime Minister introduced a new factor when he declared in the Press conference on Thursday evening that complaints had also come from the board of management.
This is an alarming disclosure because it is quite something different if the board of management also has concerns of its own. Schools carry the academic lives of our children in their hands and the intellectual and physical welfare of every child at a school is the business and concern of the teachers, the principal and the board of management, all acting together in the overall interests of the children.
There are many pressing issues in the Alexandra dispute demanding immediate attention and the commission of inquiry, with its deliberative mechanisms, in and of itself does not seem to us to be the appropriate medium for the early resolution of any of the problems there. In addition, the prospect of an escalation of the present crisis is not now to be treated lightly.
It seems to us that greater effort might have been made to expedite the solution to this matter during the Easter vacation, but there may be good and proper reasons why this was not done. We fear that positions might have hardened in the interim and that a lot of goodwill bought by the Prime Minister’s earlier intervention might have been lost.
Without ascribing any blame whatsoever, the problem seems to be one demanding a Solomonesque solution and the setting up of a commission of inquiry is the least propitious course of conduct, given the circumstances.
Might there not have been a good case for temporarily removing – on paid leave – both Mr Broomes and the teacher involved and then conducting an inquiry of some sort involving a mandate to report back within a specific time frame?
Delicate matters of industrial relations always involve a judgement call on the part of the appropriate minister and there is never an immediate solution which will be universally accepted.
However, the welfare of the children at Alexandra and the reputation of the school demanded and still demands a more immediate solution than that of a commission of inquiry standing alone.
With the best will in the world, such inquiries are not usually conducive to the expeditious resolution of any issues and, whatever else is done, additional and immediate action was and still is needed.
Dithering will not cut it.