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Terrible timing

“Definitely needed but the timing is terrible”, describes the current Alexandra School shake-up, according to the executive board of the Barbados Youth Development Council.

These sentiments mirror the general consensus of the Barbadian youth population as almost 20 teachers from the Alexandra School have been reassigned to schools across the island in an effort to appease the debacle which plagued the school for the past few months.

Rooted in a situation started and temporarily appeased years ago, not only did this saga gain interest from teachers, students, parents and our Caribbean counterparts, but also proved a costly venture as a seemingly simple solution; one which had been suggested years ago, totalled over $600,000 of Barbados’ limited and much needed financial resources, especially when experiencing such economic turmoil.

We hold the view that this shake-up was needed and inevitable and we applaud those in authority for making an attempt to solve the situation in the best interest of all, but unfortunately a Utopia cannot be achieved and as such this solution is no exception to that rule.

However, holding steadfast to our motto “Building our Youth, Developing our Country”, our concern lies not within the decision itself but rather how this decision will affect the continued growth and development of students who are still a part of our school system. It cannot be denied that such a drastic decision at such short notice leaves open the possibility for undesirable effects on the students. But was this decision not made in the best interest of said students? Unfortunately, that key stakeholder — the student population — in their eyes, seems to have been disregarded in this decision-making process.

As the national umbrella body for youth groups in the island, we saw it necessary to not only propose the views of a seven-member executive board but the views of those in our network and sought to solicit their views via the use of our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The catch phrases which accompanied varied responses included: “it was a good shake-up”, “more detrimental than beneficial”, “transfer was not made with the students in mind”.

The aforementioned are views put forward by young people, some of whom are grossly disappointed as they feel as though their interest has not been protected. Indeed, all parties understand the necessity of this shake-up but all are of the opinion that now was not the time. Some issues raised with relation to this and the possible effect it could have on the teaching of the children, included:

1. Upcoming examinations

2. Sports

3. Teaching and learning styles

4. Qualifications

5. Inter-personal relations

The entire education system of Barbados is unfortunately centred on the sitting of examinations. Examinations which are now a mere four to five months away have the potential to be disrupted by this “shake-up” as students who would have built relationships with teachers are now forced to readjust and forge new relationships. What happens to them?

Additionally, the ever anticipated sports championships which culminates in February are affected as well since athletes who would have been training with their physical education teachers could potentially be thrown off their game. What happens to them?

Moreover, not everyone learns the same and not everyone teaches the same and it can only be assumed that teachers would have tailored their teaching methods to suit those under their care, but unfortunately now have been switched with teachers catering to a completely different type of student. What happens to them?

Qualifications have been a major concern in varying respects. For example, heads of departments have been switched to schools that already have an established head of department. Will such a teacher be expected to accept what is essentially a demotion of position?

Furthermore, it is very common to find teachers who have been cross trained in varying fields who teach both areas of their expertise but now students will be taught by teachers who are only trained in one of those trades. What happens to them?

Lastly but not least, interpersonal relations cannot be ignored. What happens to teachers who will now be transferred to other schools to work alongside their counterparts who may or may not have agreed with the stance said teachers took? Will they be expected to be cordial? Silence their human right to freedom of opinion and expression? What happens to them?

These are only but a few of the questions raised by the youth of Barbados. The grey areas are numerous and the lack of clarity is all but comforting. Could this decision not have been postponed till September? Changes implemented at the wrong time or in the wrong way can have a deleterious effect rather than the expected benefits to be realised from said change. So one begs the question: Was this the right time or the right way?

* Cherisse Francis is president of the Barbados Youth Development Council.

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