The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) wants a number of outstanding issues at the Frederick Smith Secondary School dealt with urgently.
President Rudy Lovell told Barbados TODAY that the union had been trying at every turn to bring a resolution to the persistent wide-ranging issues, but to date nothing concrete had been done.
In a statement on Monday night, Lovell said that hundreds of students at the former St James Secondary were soon to sit Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations and teachers were “extremely” worried that they may not be able to do so because a lack of resources was preventing students from completing their School Based Assessments (SBAs).
“There is a lack of materials to complete SBAs in Industrial Technology and there is also the absence of teaching materials for other subject areas. There is no paper and ink for printing essential work and this is taking a toll on the teaching and learning process,” he said.
Lovell said the BUT met with the chairman of the board of management, the principal, and the secretary-treasurer of the Frederick Smith Secondary School on February 1, 2023 at 4 p.m. for an hour and a half and the parties representing the school indicated,
among other things, that materials would be made available for the completion of SBAs pending the submission of a revised materials lists. Other teaching resources were also promised.
However, Lovell said: “Promises made to the staff were not kept and the staff is growing increasingly frustrated. Teachers are frustrated and are at their wit’s end. This frustration has grown after it was revealed that the school has close to $200 000 which was budgeted for and has not been spent. It is understood that the money has to be spent before the end of this week or it will be forfeited. Teachers are fed up with the constant promises and want to see meaningful efforts to address their concerns.”
Lovell highlighted other issues at the school, noting that the Physical Education department was in a serious state of need.
“The Physical Education Department, which for years has submitted requisition after requisition for sporting goods and materials, has not received any supplies at all. All the Physical Education teachers can do is have the students perform running exercises all of the time. Since teachers have returned to full school, things have gone to the state where students are forced to bring their balls to school to facilitate physical education.”
The BUT president added that the school was desperately in need of repairs including bathroom upgrades while noting that the lack of internet was impacting the education process and the water plant next to the school was extremely noisy and disruptive.
Lovell also said that some of the senior staff were frustrated about the absence of appointments, pointing out that at least one teacher was in a senior acting position for 11 years. He added that the teachers operating in these acting positions were owed years back pay and are having difficulty getting it.
What made the situation worse, Lovell said, was the fact that teachers felt as though intervention could only be achieved if someone at the school got hurt.
“Over the last few years, there have been several reports of violence among students. The most serious resulted in the death of a student. After that incident, which was traumatic for both students and teachers, the Ministry of Education promised to reduce the roll at the school. Though this happened for one year, shortly after the school’s intake went up to the previous numbers.
“These challenges only serve to exacerbate an extremely difficult situation and an urgent fix is needed. The BUT has written to the ministry and the board of management to outline the concerns of the staff and there has been little or no intervention. Moreover, teachers at the school have told the BUT that officials from the ministry are quick to descend on the school after a violent incident but are nowhere to be seen in similar numbers until another incident and they feel as if they are fighting a battle alone,” said Lovell.