A historical perspective

It must be one of the great ironies of our time that the present Ronald Jones headed Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development is located in a complex named after the esteemed Barbadian educator, Dame Elsie Payne.

It must be made widely known that this same Dame Elsie Payne played an integral part in the BSTU teachers’ strike of 1969.

In the book, Combermere School And The Barbadian Society, written by Keith A. P. Sandiford and Earle Newton, one will read the following about that 1969 strike that is characterised by its authors as “a spirit of principled defiance”:

“Elsie (later Dame Elsie) Payne of Queen’s College became the cogent and convincing spokesman for the teachers. Amidst dire threats, such as loss of jobs and pension rights by the Prime Minister, Errol Barrow, the teachers held firm and gained most of the ground over which the dispute had arisen.”

Some amazing parallels wouldn’t you say!

I wonder what the opinion of this same great lady, Dame Elsie Payne, would be if she was confronted with Ronald Jones’ latest salvo fired at the teachers? Well, history does give us some idea of this and the possible response of this courageous woman fighting with a “spirit of principled defiance”!

It is interesting to note that regarding that 1969 BSTU strike, during which Barrow used the strongest language against the teachers (calling them “Lilliputians”) and threatened to fire every one of the striking teachers, the union emerged victorious! The late Tom Adams would state later that the 1969 BSTU strike was “the most effective strike to take place in Barbados”! Effective in what it achieved for an “overhaul” and “reform” of the education system. Another irony, wouldn’t you say?

A historical perspective is always helpful!

Members of the BSTU, I urge you to stand firm against injustice. Your goodly heritage demands nothing less! Stand firm for the respect of teachers — no other teachers’ union is doing this right now! The environment created for teaching impacts so greatly on the environment created for learning. Make people understand this vital element!

Injustice and those petty malicious characters who perpetrate it in the false packaging of imagined propriety (“What a goodly outside falsehood hath!”) will always confront you, but righteousness shall always prevail. Believe it!

When you despair, remember that wrongdoers, for a time may seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it — always! An error does not become the truth by reason of multiple propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth, Mahatma Gandhi said.

– Stephen Nicholls

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