It’s time to speak out on school
I believe it is time to speak out on certain matters. It may take me more than one column to say these things, but I am not committing to having a page or a slot.
Just for background information for those who may not know, I recently retired from the teaching service at the level of deputy principal, after serving as acting principal for 18 months, the full post which I really could never achieve, being labelled a “troublemaker” and more recently a “devil” by the powers that be.
Why? The status quo, amoral as it may be, must be maintained! But more on that later.
When I was PRO and then president of the BSTU, this issue of violence against teachers raised its head –– and from then till now, some 18 years later. The Ministry of Education –– under various ministers, the worst being the present –– has failed to grapple with the issue, and, like most other things in this country, it has remained under the carpet. This is a country where if you don’t toe the line, you are out in the cold.
Are we going to wait until a teacher is killed to deal with it? I accept that due process and investigation must take place; however, that having been done, there are subsequent steps to be taken:
The board of management needs to decide if the child is to be further suspended, expelled or sent back to school.
The ministry then takes the board’s recommendation and either accepts or rejects it, and rightly so, then makes its own determination.
The child has to be expelled from that school and not from the educational system, as some people would want to determine. This is because the teacher involved and the student cannot no longer exist in the same environment simultaneously. It would leave the student as a hero, something which I have seen done on several occasions.
The ministry needs to seriously put in place that special institution which has been spoken about for many years. It should be run by the Barbados Defence Force personnel and have strict guidelines in relation to an alternative syllabus for such students who offer this category of violence to a teacher, or even their parents.
Let it be clear I am not suggesting teachers are always right and children always wrong, because that would be far from the truth. There have been instances where teachers have brought things upon themselves, owing to the inability to cope with certain personalities in the classroom. Some teachers were not born to be such, but end up teaching out of necessity.
On the other hand, when we analyse why certain children display very unsociable behaviours, as is being suggested as a remedy, what happens afterwards? Is one guidance counsellor per secondary school of 1,000 children adequate? Is one psychologist at the Ministry of Education enough? Is abolishing corporal punishment the answer?
The countries which have taken the last approach are in more trouble than we are now, and may be looking to reinstate it. But look! There is a teacher who flogged children illegally for years; was warned on several occasions; but was just given a deputy post at a hot school. Wow!
What about the new rantings and ravings of the Minister of Education? Can you imagine a minister taking up a portfolio that contains important mandates, as written in the Education Act, and only after eight years coming out to say he never liked corporal punishment? What is even worse, he has insulted all principals, deputies and senior teachers by implying they should all be locked up for assault. I wonder what the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools’ (BAPPSS) response will be, being the soft organization that it is –– one which, in keeping with the requirements of being attached to any Government agency, must “toe the line” and play down many of the issues that plague our system.
Things that happen at the so-called low schools happen at the high schools too; but “no Press allowed”. Maybe, one should wonder why the rules that govern secondary schools are not standardized. (I don’t mean on paper.)
Each school almost does as it likes. What do I mean? In some schools, teachers must write a letter whenever absent; others not. In some schools, principals are not even informed about decisions made by the board, even though the principal is supposed to be the CEO on the compound.
Some principals don’t even get to browse the SmartStream system to know how much money was allocated, where and how it is being spent. In others, that is the norm. Talking about boards, would you believe that at a school, corporate governance has allowed a deputy chairman of the board to be on that same entity along with his wife who is the secretary treasurer? Of course, one is not to even ask about things like that, and that is why both the writer and the current principal were recently labelled “devils” for asking about it.
Not only that; the previous principal complained to the ministry for me because I asked too many questions about the status quo like: why are teachers from this parish getting to school late so often? Do you send monthly reports to the ministry?
Why do certain teachers have 18 and 19 non-teaching lessons? How is it that certain people come and go on the compound with much frequency but with your permission? Why are certain teachers in your office for long periods during the day and you are never available for matters on the compound, which the deputy must make decisions on?
I would never forget the day there was a fire above the school and children were having asthmatic attacks, and the writer was chastized for being asked by teachers what to do. The principal didn’t even have a clue what was going on. He asked if the teachers thought I was “our saviour”, because lives had to be saved without his initiative.
Anyhow, more to be said! You see this country? It is a mess and getting worse daily. I could write a book highlighting the 23 interviews I had before fluking a deputy post; or the three panels that were changed just to ensure a troublemaker like me did not get an administrative position.
Yes! Remember, it was first the governing bodies that did the interviews. Then when Parkinson was up for grabs, between the first and second interviews it changed to a special panel made up of big boys from the Ministry of Education, Erdiston, UWI, two board members and such.
Then when Princess Margaret was up, again between the first and second interviews the panel was then changed to the commissioners without a single board member being even informed. (Not that that made any difference to the song and dance that went on when I retired.) Foundation, Ellerslie twice, St George, Combermere –– and the list goes on.
Unfortunately, I was never a yes-man, something which is required in many situations. I find it impossible to be present in the midst of nonsense going on called a “status quo” and the number of people who don’t have the guts to come out and say anything. Well, I always had guts. It’s going down now since I lost some weight.
By the way, this is not political either, since, as you would have noticed, my demise was shared between both parties. So it would have to be me! I remember when a deputy chief education officer called me into her office to tell me that while I was tutoring at Erdiston College in strategic planning, I was not to say anything against the Ministry of Education even if it was true. And you believe they have that in the Public Service Act too?
I have a lot more to say; but I will pause and come again. I will not close, however, without challenging any member who sat on a panel to interview me over the last ten years to really come out and expose the foolishness that goes on in this country, damaging and destroying the lives and psyches of many serious-minded and hard-working individuals.
Then there is the use of the word “recommendation” to imply a matter may be accepted or refused –– all set up for ulterior motives to satisfy friends and cohorts. I can’t forget the campaign manager of a minister who got a school one week before elections were called. Yeah. That was one that lick me up too!
My friend Mrs Thompson, may she rest in peace, former chairman of a governing body, was able to tell me something before her passing. Who else has the guts, the fortitude or the resolve?
The seven years of secrecy have passed. Or do we remain a country of carpets, and brooms sweeping away the truths?
By the way, more on the minister to come! Yes sir, I am Mr Ting, as said to me at several meetings. This “devil” says: please learn to pronounce your “th” as though it were not a “d”. Stop making up words on the people’s TV. Were you a teacher or not? Teaching which subject, I cannot imagine. A Union leader? Really!
Gone, but not for long!
(Wayne Willock, a retired educator, was an acting secondary school principal.)