No need for a sledgehammer
What started life as a mere domestic affair at The Alexandra School has now mushroomed into the kind of problem that has already had the most serious adverse impact on the teaching profession in this island.
The complaint made public at a Speech Day by principal Jeff Broomes was the catalyst for the outbreak of a sequence of events in which decision-making at the technocratic and ministerial levels of the Ministry of Education appears to have been less sure-footed than ought to have been.
The decision made last week that some 20 teachers at that school along with Broomes were to be moved to other schools may solve a problem – although it is not clear how that may be done – but in many respects that decision suffers from the same clumsiness which has been the hallmark of the mishandling of this affair.
How this wholesale removal of the two principal actors and the remaining teachers who were not implicated in the affair will solve the problem at the school and help to advance the cause of education at Alexandra or elsewhere is NOT clear.
The case of the removal from Alexandra of teachers with one set of skills and the replacement by other teachers?is a retrograde step which ought to be clear to anyone, be he policymaker, technocrat or a mere boy in the yard; and the fact that such an exchange can be contemplated and communicated to teachers may be the clearest case that whoever made these decisions should have allowed the ideas more time in the oven before dispatching purported letters of transfer.
To hear that some teachers at Alexandra may be subject to special conditions and therefore may not be moved causes the independent observer to pause and wonder at the state of confusion overtaking a school which has an enviable record of producing well-educated achievers in this society.
This state of dysfunction cannot be good for the school, nor for students deep in exam preparation. Above all, the teachers may have to make stressful and monumental adjustments if the proposed transfers take effect.
The Commission of Inquiry established in the public mind that a problem of some magnitude existed at the school, but does the nature of the problem require so drastic an approach for its resolution?
Ms Mary Redman of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union uses some direct language in describing what she thinks of the matter, but while acknowledging that the law allows for the transfer of teachers, she declares that her union regards the wholesale transfers as conducted in a manner that is especially reprehensible and vindictive.
These are serious charges and so far no minister has spoken to the issues which have arisen since the story broke more than a week ago. Technocrats within the ministry have been meeting with the union and the union is asking for a meeting with the Prime Minister. We think this is the right approach at this stage.
Technocrats may run ministries but it is the elected officials who are answerable to the people when things of this kind go wrong. When accusations as serious as those made by Ms Redman have been made, then the honourable Prime Minister and his minister of education must confront head-on any accusation of vindictiveness or punishment in these transfers.
They must answer the accusation of vindictiveness raised by Ms Redman as it touches these transfers. The awesome power placed in the hands of the politicians by the voters cannot be exercised in such an alleged fashion, and the Cabinet of this country must deal with this matter in such a way as to show that one does not need a sledgehammer to crack a nut. When sledgehammers are so used, the nut is destroyed. Is that what we want?