Get back to students
Were the Alexandra School impasse being handled by the Divine, perhaps all that would have been necessary to bring about settlement would have been the words: “Peace, be still!”
Then they are those who seem to be ascribed, or who take to themselves, larger than life personas who only need to say “Cease and settle!” or, perhaps like US President Ronald Reagan said on August 3, 1981 when air traffic controllers went on strike simply said “… if they do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated”. And they were!
Unfortunately, ordinary men and women — persons who are quite frankly no different from those who are reading this publication as well as those who produced it — are on the many sides of this dispute, and lots of mistakes have been made along the way. Such is the nature of human beings.
Today, however, it is time for it all to stop. It is now just over a week since the country learnt that the Ministry of Education had taken a decision to remove Principal Jeff Broomes, his deputy and 18 teachers from the Alexandra School, and rather than settling down the situation has become more tense.
It is time for the main focus of this matter to shift from the adults who are in dispute to the children, who have suffered long enough. It is pointless at this stage to be arguing in the public domain, whether you are teacher, union, education administrator of John Public, that the ministry should not have transferred the teachers at this stage. Alexandra students could not have afforded another term with a continuation of the chaos that so characterised their daily lives and for education officials not to have acted would have amounted to an extreme case of dereliction of duty.
So each exchange of an Alexandra teacher with one from another school was not as perfectly matched at it could have been. Could that be worse than a maintenance of the status quo?
We may not be perfect, but in many ways our systems of governance are quite mature and balanced and if the Ministry of Education or any other arm of Government has violated the rights of any of the teachers affected, then the law courts are there for redress. And in our view, that is where any further dispute should not be played out — that is, provided mature discussion and negotiations are not possible.
Up until the delivery of letters of transfer or dismissal, what the country and the various sides were involved in was speculation. There was a whole lot of table thumping and chest pounding about recommendations. Now the ministry has acted so there is absolutely no need for “iffing” and “butting” — the over-abundance of legal minds in Barbados ought to be enough to guarantee that anyone who believes he or she a cause of action can head to Whitepark Road for a hearing.
The time for action on the compound or outside the gates of the Alexandra School has passed. Our courts are more than up to the task of deciding whether Jeff Broomes was legally shifted; whether any teacher’s contract prevents the ministry from moving him or her without prior consent; whether a memorandum of understanding between the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and the Ministry of Education exists and if it does whether it has the force of law to prevent the employer from shifting a shop steward. Or another other matter of dispute.
We wish to make it clear that we do not seek to lessen the role or rights of the BSTU, Barbados Union of Teachers, National Union of Public Workers or the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools in representing their members, but we do believe there is a time and place for everything. At this stage, the various disputing parties should either be talking across the table or before the bar.
We have cried out for months for the ministry to act. They have now acted. We have had the benefit of the Christmas vacation (and perhaps spirits) to shout out in favour of or against the decision. Now let’s get back to educating our children while the appropriate persons or institutions sort out whatever is left to be cleaned up.
By the way, it might to instructive to keep the motto of the Alexandra School in the spotlight for a while: Per Ardua Ad Astra – Through toil, to the stars.