For the sake of the nicer schoolchildren

I am amazed that this kind of behaviour and this level of negativity should define a school. There are some really nice children at this school, and there are some good teachers too; but there are some bad teachers as well. And I stand by that!

–– Jeff Broomes, principal of the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School.

Who better to know the bad teachers in an institution of learning than the principal? And “bad” will not only be reflective of disorderliness, reluctance and indifference of the accused in instruction, but equally in lack of good influence on generally impressionable young minds.

The presumably erudite following of the Barbados Union of Teachers and its less than articulate president Pedro Shepherd have pledged (or was it muttered?) that the teachers of Parkinson Memorial Secondary will not be going back on the compound of The Pine school for fear of their lives, and until the Ministry of Education deals with making the premises safer and more secure.

And this trepidation of the teachers hangs majorly on the reported incident of a group of students bringing knives to school and “not being reprimanded by the principal”. Mr Broomes has since dismissed the charge against him as unfounded. Founded or not, the big question is: what did the teachers of Parkinson Memorial Secondary actually do when they espied their very charges armed with these blades?

Did they approach them, or did they flee? Did they advise the rule-breaching students of their infelicity and against any potential barbarism? Did they seek the reason for the self-arming of these students with their sharp-edged tools? Did they seek any explanation from the parents of these youngsters?

Would the Barbados Union of Teachers be privy to any of the answers to these questions?

Did Mr Shepherd or any of the other hierarchical officers of the union suggest to members to take proactive (as against partisan and pugnacious) action that would be consultative, conciliatory and edifying in manifesting order and acknowledgment of the school rules among the delinquent? For the resultant safety and security of teachers, ancillary staff, and other students?

Or was it the plain crude case of a cast of unionized teachers “brekking” for themselves?

Teachers of children are more than instructors; they are role models too, especially when it comes to civility, respect for law and order and proven convention, selflessness and the practice of higher values. Teachers who are publicly and melodramatically confrontational towards authority can hardly teach compromise in the classroom, or elicit settlement and affinity on the playing field.

However you view this sordid affair at Parkinson Memorial, the true victims at the end of it all are the children –– not Mr Broomes who will ride off blithely into the sunset sooner or later, nor the Ministry of Education which has taken a rather clinical (and in some cases cynical approach) to the issue. And definitely not the striking –– rather ego-stroking–– teachers.

The present dilemma of Parkinson Memorial Secondary is hardly the making of the students there, including the ones allegedly carrying knives. And the “really nice children” at that school surely deserve better. It would be obscenely unjust should they be made to lose any more days, or parts thereof, beyond today, to classrooms without teachers.

Morally and ethically, in all matters of conflict resolution involving children, the well-being of these school charges is paramount. Nothing else may transcend their interests.

The Ministry of Education –– out of some expressed disgust –– has advised through the more responsible media that the teachers of Parkinson Memorial Secondary should get back to their classrooms post-haste, or face the consequences.

It appears the BUT’s Mr Shepherd will only take the Ministry of Education seriously –– or its word into consideration –– when he gets an official letter from it. Disruption of Parkinson classes he would have us continue to see.

Given an administration for which the rolling of heads means keeping that grey matter firmly affixed to the necks and shoulders –– manifest in its intimidatory words and no serious action –– Mr Shepherd could keep pressing for his wish; or pushing his will.

The idle threats and obfuscation will do Parkinson Memorial Secondary school students little or no good. We reiterate these students deserve better.

Our politicians and educators ought to be committed to securing for our better behaved young souls at school in particular all the advantages there are for sound learning and favourable maturing –– for their peace of mind and future, and for the very same for the rest of us.

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