Parkinson and Alma Parris teachers refusing to return to the classroom
After staying away from school for two hours today, teachers at two of this island’s secondary schools are threatening to remain off the job indefinitely unless their safety concerns are addressed by the authorities.
President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd made the announcement today at a press conference at union headquarters, Merryhill, Welches, St Michael, after a formal complaint was lodged with the union last Thursday that students at the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School in the Pine, St Michael were bringing knives to school.
“As a union we felt it was a serious matter because members of the teaching staff and ancilliary staff have to interact with the students,” said Shepherd, while lamenting that nothing had been done about the complaint by the Principal Jeff Broomes to date.
“The students were not suspended or letters sent to their parents,” Shepherd said.
The BUT president also reported that a group of students were found lighting paper in a classroom at Parkinson Memorial last week. He said the incident brought back ugly memories of fires that had plagued the Pine learning institution over the years.
“This situation was not addressed even though it is a serious matter.” he said, adding that “on a daily basis if one visits the Parkinson school what you see is total chaos where students are seen moving in large numbers.
“Students are difficult to track down and not going to classes they are expected to attend. So it is a chaotic situation at the Parkinson School and we in the union believe that something has to be done to allow some sense of normalcy to prevail at the school,” he stressed.
Today’s meeting was also attended by several teachers of the the Alma Parris Memorial Secondary School in Speightstown, St Peter, where Shepherd said similar problems of indiscipline existed.
However, the most vocal comments were made at the meeting by Parkinson staffers, including one female educator, who teaches a class of 26 students.
She publicly declared that “I am a woman and I have no intention of returning to that ‘zoo’.”
“Anything can happen to me when I am writing on the board and my back is turned to the classroom,” she said, pointing out that “throughout the day I have to be asking roaming students not to enter my class”.
“If something is not done at Parkinson School I am just not returning to the school,” she said, while reporting that doors to classrooms were either torn off or damaged.
While expressing fear that the teachers’ lives could be in danger, the BUT boss was equally adamant that members would not be returning to the compound until certain assurances were given.
“If the Ministry of Education can come this evening and give us the assurance that they are putting protocols in place that these things would not happen, the teachers would return to work tomorrow. But as it stands, the teachers have no intention of returning to that particular environment anytime this week,” Shepherd said, pointing out the Alma Parris teachers would support their colleagues at Parkinson in their protest action.