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Time to act

by Latoya Burnham

An historic education consultation is set for Barbados tomorrow, which Minister of Education Ronald Jones is hoping will put all stakeholders on the same footing ahead of Monday’s opening of the new school year.

Hundreds of teachers are expected to descend on the Wildey Gymnasium for the national consultation on education that will involve the minister, education officials, teachers unions, principals and teachers.

While Jones told Barbados TODAY that it was not the first time a consultation on education would be held, he however noted that it was certainly a first for the start of the school term.

And even as he noted that it was brought about by what he saw as a need to put everyone on the same footing to handle education going forward, the main union hailed the meeting as a step in the right direction.

This meeting comes little more than a week after the conclusion of the Commission of Enquiry into the Alexandra School, where teachers went on strike last term against Principal Jeff Broomes.

“I think there are some issues that we would want to talk to teachers about. So we have invited leaders, teachers from all across the system; we have invited the unions to say a few words as well, the chief education officer and the minister,” Jones said.

The minister added: “So we will address several issues in education and we will take some questions as well from teachers. Not everybody is always on the same page but we want to [be], in the midst of everything that has been happening and the issues in the school system, the fall-out from the negative commentary, the negative behaviour… So we are going to address some issues and we can only do that in a full forum where everybody is present and all hear a similar message.”

Definitive, aggressive moves

The education boss said he believed with everything that has happened in education there were definitive and aggressive moves to be taken now and this consultation could hopefully help in that regard.

“We have to move forward a little more aggressively in education in Barbados and we have to get everybody on board, a common pursuit, that kind of thing.”

But, Jones stated that he did not wish this to be the only such forum of this sort. In fact, he said he was hoping the consultations would form a “regular feature on the education calendar”.

“I am told that it is done in one or two other countries. I only heard this about a week or so ago, which is good. So it is now being done, as far as I know for the very first time,” he said, stressing that it was a meeting for “everybody in the education system”.

Meanwhile, the main representative body for teachers, the teachers Barbados Union of Teachers, this evening commended the initiative to have such a meeting involving all stakeholders.

Public Relations Officer Everton Briggs said he believed it was a good start to making teachers across the board aware of all of their requirements and responsibilities.

He said it was also a way of being able to impress upon teachers the seriousness of their duties and to encourage them to perform those to the best of their abilities.

For this reason, he, like Jones, underscored the importance of having such meetings on a regular basis.

“In fact, I think it should be done every two years of so, because of the fact that we are having such a fast movement out of the system I think we need to let teachers know what is happening which could cut down on the exits,” he said.

Acting President, Pedro Shepherd is one of the speakers slated to address tomorrow’s gathering, said Briggs.

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