Partners in making our schools work

Next Monday Barbados will be abuzz. Thousands of bright-eyed children, admittedly some with tears, nervous parents and teachers fresh from the summer vacation, will be headed back to classrooms.

With high hopes, we wish all success as the new school year begins and trust that it is not merely about new uniforms, shoes, books and bags but a fresh outlook.

While we wish that all would go well, we are not naïve, and as such we expect that there will be some problems. The key, though, will be how well prepared is the Ministry of Education and school administrators to deal with those problems.

Last school year was challenging.  The drawn out disciplinary row at the Springer Memorial Secondary School over the student’s refusal to pick up a wrapper as instructed by a teacher was disturbing.

The frequent reports of fighting among students, the unsettling altercation involving a student and teacher at the Ellerslie Secondary School were condemned by all.

Then there was the closure of the Chalky Mount Primary School in St Andrew and the repeated disruptions of classes at Combermere and Lawrence T Gay Primary because of environmental issues.

Last week, Minister of Education Ronald Jones while touring eight public schools under repair indicated that all schools should be ready for the start of the new term.

Renovations took place at Westbury Primary, Combermere, St Matthews Primary, Holy Innocents Primary, St Silas Primary, Ignatius Byer Primary, A. DaCosta Edwards Primary and St Philip Primary.

According to Jones the repair work, which totalled $1.5 million had been “reasonably successful”.

We trust that students and teachers will indeed be able to settle down in comfort next Monday.

But beyond the physical plant, we are anxious for interaction among the Ministry of Education and the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Unions (BSTU) to turn a new page. Relations between these critical partners during the last year had been tense and if the continued mouthings by the leaders of the BUT and BSTU are anything to go by, there is much unfinished business.

The contentious docking of the salaries of teachers who attended BUT meetings back in April, the matter of teachers’ appointments and the way forward on addressing violence in schools are just a few of the lingering bugbears.

We aver that in the interest of building a stable educational sector and getting ahead with addressing broader issues to improve the current system, both sides must recommit themselves to the spirit of genuine dialogue and settle down to tackling these pressing matters.

That brings us to the role of students, parents and teachers.

Students can approach the school year with a good attitude and absorb all the knowledge they can.Take advantage of the opportunity for a quality education. Doing so will place them on a path for future success, while failure to do so will almost surely lead to regrets.

Teachers can practice lots of patience and love and remember why they entered the profession, never letting go of the desire to improve the lives of children.

Parents, a successful and stress-free school year starts at home. More than ever, parents must be engaged in their children’s education. Know the teachers and the school, go to parent-teacher meetings, ask about what they are learning and about homework.Encourage your children to apply themselves, make sure they do their homework, and communicate with their teachers when a problem is noticed. Find ways to apply the things they are studying to activities at home.

Successful schools require all hands on deck.Let’s set our sights high and get down to the business of making this school year the best yet.

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