The Ministry of Education-IDB Questionnaire Fiasco: The Legal and Human Rights (Privacy) Angle

The following article was submitted by Niel Harper, a Barbadian professional making his mark in the international arena. See his website Niel HarperBlogmaster

Earlier this week, news broke that a questionnaire ‘sanctioned’ by the Ministry of Education (“MoE”) and overseen by the Inter-American Development Bank (“IDB”), was administered to mostly 11 year old children in Barbados. It has also come to light that a similar project was undertaken in Jamaica and Belize.

Ramona Archer-Bradshaw (l) Chief Education Officer Kay McConney (r), Minister of Education (r)

Misleadingly labelled as a “Computer Science Diagnostic Pre-Test”, it included questions on “social and emotional health” that were of a very sensitive nature. Below is a sampling of the more than 150 psycho-social questions:

  • I drink alcohol without parents’ approval.
  • I deliberately try to hurt or kill myself.
  • I hear sounds or voices that other people think aren’t there.
  • I am overweight.
  • I physically attack people.
  • I steal from home.
  • I steal from places other than home.
  • I think about killing myself.
  • I think about sex too much.
  • I wish I were of the opposite sex.
  • I use drugs for non-medical purposes.
  • I see things that other people think aren’t there.
  • Physical problems without known medical cause:
    • Aches of pains (not stomach or headache)
    • Headaches
    • Nausea, feels sick
    • Problems with eyes (not if corrected by glasses)
    • Rashes or other skin problems
    • Stomach aches
    • Vomiting, throwing up
    • Other

The questionnaire was delivered using a paper form and required that students provide personal information such as their name, sex, and ethnicity. Also included were detailed questions about the education level and work status of parents (e.g., type of job, unemployed, homemaker, etc.).

There was swift and comprehensive social commentary accompanied by widespread public condemnation of the decision to administer this questionnaire. The political public relations machinery quickly sprung into action to contain the damage to the public perceptions of the current Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration. The IDB immediately took responsibility for the melee, trying in vain to absolve the Ministry of Education of any wrongdoing. The Chief Education Officer, Deputy Chief Education Officer, Permanent Secretary, and the Director of Education Reform all embarked on a public apology tour. The Prime Minister set about with her usual articulate flare and penchant for press conferences to assure the masses that she was deeply outraged (while praising the IDB for their prompt action in shifting the blame from her government). However, it must be noted that the Minister of Education has been conspicuously silent amidst this public relations storm.

But now to the main reason behind this author’s musings…

So far, the public discourse around this fiasco has centered on the incompetence of the Ministry of Education staff, the arrogance of the IDB, the inappropriateness of the questions, and the mental stress inflicted on the children. What has been glaringly missing are the legal elements. So let me break it down.

  • The subject questionnaire is for all intents and purposes scientific research. Questionnaires are popular in academic research for quick and easy collection of large amounts of data for analysis of subject behavior, preferences, intentions, attitudes, and opinions.
  • To meet ethical and legal standards, and to protect the rights of data subjects, informed consent is an important legal basis for data processing as required by the Data Protection Act (Barbados), General Data Protection Regulations (European Union), Data Protection Act (United Kingdom), Personal Information Protection and Electronics Data Act (Canada), and other privacy and data protection laws across the world.
  • As per the Barbados Data Protection Act (“the Act”) and similar laws around the world, there are six lawful grounds on which data can be processed: explicit consentcontractual obligationslegal obligationsvital interests of the data subjects, public interests, or for purposes of legitimate interests of the data controller. The only lawful basis which the MoE can use for administering the subject questionnaire is legitimate interests. However, that lawful basis does not pass the three-part test which requires a positive answer to these three (3) questions: Is there a legitimate interest behind the processing? Is the processing necessary for that purpose? Is the legitimate interest overridden by the data subject’s interests, rights, or freedoms?
  • As per the definitions in the Act (and the other aforementioned laws), the students whose personal data have been collected are data subjects.
  • As per the definitions in the Act, the Government of Barbados is the data controller who determines the purposes for which and the means by which personal data is processed. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is the data processor who processes personal data only on behalf of the data controller.
  • As per the definitions in the Act, a ‘child’ is a person under the age of 18.
  • As per the Act Part II 8(1-2), “The processing of a child’s personal data shall be lawful only where and to the extent that consent is given or authorised by the parent or guardian of the child” and “The data controller shall make reasonable efforts to verify in such cases that consent is given or authorised by the parent or guardian of a child, taking into consideration available technology.” From all accounts, neither the MoE nor the IDB obtained consent from parents to collect this personal data from children. This is a violation of the law.
  • As per the Act Part II 9(1-4), the data collected is personal sensitive data, which requires greater safeguards to protect the rights of the data subjects. Sensitive data includes data on ethnicity, health, and sexual orientation or sexual life. Collection of this type of personal data requires strong security and consent is required to share with third parties. From all accounts, the data controller (MoE) did not obtain consent from parents to share this sensitive personal data with a third party. This is a violation of the law.
  • As per the Act Part IV 58(1-10), the MoE (data controller) is required to have a Data Protection Agreement in place with the IDB (data processor) to ensure that the rights of the individual are being protected and that legal compliance with the Act is achieved. The public deserves to know whether a Data Protection Agreement exists between the two entities and to examine if it is fit for purpose.
  • As per the Act Part IV 55(1-6), the IDB must be registered as a data processor, pay a fee, be in possession of a certificate to conduct data processing activities, and nominate a representative who is resident in Barbados. Failing to do any of these things makes their representative liable for a “fine of $10,000 or to a term of imprisonment of 2 months or to both.” Is the IDB compliant with the law in this area? The government should present the general public with evidence to verify this compliance.
  • As per the Act Part IV 59(1-2), it is stated that “The data processor and any person acting under the authority of the data controller or of the data processor, who has access to personal data, shall not process those data except on instructions from the data controller, unless required to do so by any enactment” and “A person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $500,000 or to a term of imprisonment of 3 years or to both.” In their public statement, the IDB asserts that their administering of the questionnaire was against the objections of the MoE. This is a violation of the law.
  • The Act Part IV 62 (1-3) requires that data processing of this sensitivity and high risk be conducted using online tools. Moreover, it states that the data is pseudonymized (not contain information that could identify a living person), which means that the names of individuals should not have been required on the document. Finally, it demands that strong security protections be in place to protect against unauthorized access. Given that the questionnaire was administered by paper, it is virtually impossible to guarantee that this very sensitive personal data on children was adequately protected from unauthorized access, misuse, and abuse. Moreover, it also attributed the sensitive and potentially harmful information to living, identifiable children and their parents. This is a violation of the law.
  • The Act Part IV 67(1-7) and 68(1-6) requires that both the data controller (MoE) and the data processor (IDB) designate an individual as a data privacy officer to advise them on the legal, technical, and administrative elements of processing personal data. A data privacy officer should be an individual qualified in privacy law and compliance. To the best of my knowledge, neither organization is compliant with this legal requirement with regards to data processing in Barbados. Given the number of violations of the law, this is not surprising.
  • One of the most alarming things about this matter is the eerie silence of the Data Protection Commissioner.As per the Act Part VII 70(1) and 71, the Data Protection Commissioner is “responsible for the general administration of this Act” and whose functions are to monitor and enforce the Act (including issue fines), organize activities to educate children (and parents) on the risks of processing their data, and monitor and audit data processing by data controllers and data processors, among other things. The individual in this role was equally silent during the February 2022 elections when the government leaked the entire voters’ list on the public Internet, which has, based on my discussions with officials at financial institutions in Barbados, resulted in several citizens being victims of fraud and identity theft. This seriously brings into the question the qualifications, capabilities, and independence of the Commissioner, and the ability of the individual to effectively serve in this important role.
  • As data protection laws are generally extraterritorial, the MoE and IDB have more than likely violated the General Data Protection Regulations (European Union) and other privacy/data protection laws from across the world. For example, there are many expats living in Barbados, and if European Union citizens were required to take the questionnaire, then that is a clear violation of EU laws. This also applies to citizens from other countries where robust data protection laws have been enacted.
  • There are numerous other areas of the Act that the MoE and IDB violate in their relationship (e.g., consultation with the Data Protection Commissioner, performing data protection impact assessments, records of data processing activities, etc.). Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are several public agencies, educational institutions, financial organizations (including fintechs), retail companies, telecoms operators, and other businesses in Barbados who are in clear violation of privacy and data protection laws.

The “right to private life” is enshrined in the Constitution of Barbados and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The rights of data subjects (including children) are legally protected by the Data Protection Act (Barbados). The Government of Barbados, its development partners, and private corporations need to do so much better as it pertains to upholding the rights of citizens. I shudder to think of what similar privacy rights abuses are happening in other Caribbean countries and across the broader developing world.

342 thoughts on “The Ministry of Education-IDB Questionnaire Fiasco: The Legal and Human Rights (Privacy) Angle

  1. I should know since i HAVE A SPECIALTY IN CIVIL LITIGATION…so should at least KNOW OF WHAT I SPEAK….

    and don’t have to guess or parrot anyone…..

  2. that’s the problem with some of you…love to think you know about others but would be totally DUMBSTRUCK…by who they are and what they know.

    …..i have had that specialty BEFORE the 00s….so no one can feed me shit and tell me it’s law…

  3. dpD…… ‘civil litigation’ is simply a generic term for non-criminal law. In other words, it is a legal proceeding that does not include criminal charges. A civil litigator is an ATTORNEY-AT-LAW specialising in civil disputes, such as injury claims, landlord v tenant, employee v employer, disputes involving contracts, ownership of property or damage to property.

  4. Anyone claiming to “have a specialty in civil litigation,” would either have to be a lawyer or Civil Litigation Paralegal. But, although Civil Litigation Paralegals may perform tasks similar to those of litigators, they cannot practice law.

  5. @Artax, much thanks but that’s exactly the point. I simply queried why the blogger would conflate the board category of civil litigation with the specialty area of Humans Rights law and create a distinction as she did… where none for practical purposes existed.

    The distinction made little sense to me because an attorney with a Human Rights practice would surely be a civil litigator generally … (cases of Human Rights violations can be brought in a criminal proceeding also of course most often at the nation-state level).

    A simple other comparison would be an attorney handling the specialty of Divorce Law for example who would also be a civil litigator … there should be no distinction to suggest there are TWO different specialties there!

    That an attorney or some one steeped in the law would be parsing such rudimentary jargon to remark that she has “… had that specialty BEFORE the 00s….so no one can feed me shit and tell me it’s law…” is confusingly strange!

    I am not questioning anyone’s ability. I simply noted that the statement made little practical sense … sometimes we misspeak!

  6. Amateurs pretending they know but don’t. If not for google would more than likely not be able to string 2 sentences together, and in spite of google still rambling all over the place.

  7. Artax,

    Since you guys brought it up – I saw the comment and thought, “WTH”.

    But I decided not to “target certain people all the time”.

    Wasn’t in the mood.

    But my sniffer is twitching. “Big lies on the blog again!”

    She did mentioned doing a law course before but she never claimed that she is a professional.

    Neither have ANY of her submissions suggested in depth knowledge of any law.

    I too did A law course.

    But I didn’t need that or Google to pick up on the wrongness of her argument.

    Send out the Bat Signal! By the time the Flash gets here I will be gone.

    I doing only hit an’ run like Lawson these days.

    P.S. Lawson got caught with his racist underwear around his ankles. At least he has some awareness.

    The end.

  8. I don’t have to claim anything, i have read law right here on BU more than once…… sure no one noticed except those with legal minds……, don’t owe anyone anything…and definitely owe no explanation…

    there are law courses and then there are law courses, not every law course goes indepth..

  9. Youth Advocacy Service
    Perhaps 11 years old who feel damaged or violated can file a case
    at that age they probably have had crushes before
    sometimes battles are more about winning the propaganda war


    Shannon Let The Music Play

  10. @ spD

    Ir”s about time you became FAMILIAR with WURA’s ‘modus operandi.’

    Rather than ADMIT when she is PROVEN to be WRONG, the lady prefers to engage in blatant manipulations of the truth or ‘written gymnastics.’
    You would also take note of how OFTEN she MISINTERPRETS SIMPLE information she Googles and copy & paste to BU.

    When further challenged, and, according to the situation, she would either CLAIM to have relatives or friends who are INTIMATELY INVOLVED in the particular situation, or she has FIRST HAND knowledge and experience relative to the issue.

    @ dpD, let’s be honest and ”call a spade…… a spade.’
    I’m putting it to you that WURA-War-on-U DOES NOT HAVE any QUALIFICATIONS in civil litigation.

    This type of behaviour is EXPECTED from an individual who ADMITTED to this forum that she INTENTIONALLY LIES and ‘make up things just to make things interesting.”


  11. The Claimant has contended that an Act of Parliament by itself cannot lawfully make Barbados a republic.
    By Grenville Phillips II … if the explanation was persuasive, I would ask the Court to stop the proceedings, and I would accept the costs.

    did GP junior receive his gate pressure

  12. ““Waru” pleads insanity your Honour”

    and it works…i don’t know what gets into these, they believe they are the only ones know anything, which is LAUGHABLE and SERIOUSLY LACKING…

    so am going to spend years in a metropolis country that has no restrictions on broad based education and knowledge…and don’t utilize the massive opportunities available to me back in the 90s….and return just as foolish as them….wuh i mussee dumb enuff…who don’t know where the deficit clock is in Times Square…..

    it’s a skill i use to benefit myself and family, and share with a few others….nothing to advertise unless the time is right, i don’t use it for monetary gain, did that years ago……

  13. Donna October 17, 2022 2:27 PM

    ‘Let’s be frank.’


    Anyone who CLAIMS to be an AUTHOR and RESEARCHER, and tries to convince us he/she is ALL KNOWING, but, cannot understand simple information…. and gets the facts WRONG 99% of the time, is a BLUFFER.

    And, despite what members of her fan club or
    anyone says, I do not make any APOLOGIES for stating that FACT.

  14. “it’s a skill i use to benefit myself and family, and share with a few others….nothing to advertise unless the time is right, i don’t use it for monetary gain, did that years ago……”

    I’m PUTTING IT to YOU that, despite what you claim to have, unless you are a lawyer, YOU ARE NOT QUALIFIED to PRACTICE LAW, or far less LITIGATE any Civil matter on behalf of an a Plaintiff or Defendant who is involved in a civil dispute.

    To do so, for “monetary gain,”means you’re essentially IMPERSONATING a lawyer.

    If you’re a Paralegal, then your duties would be confined to scheduling interviews, preparing the ground work for the case, etc.
    But, you would not be QUALIFIED to PRACTICE LAW law or OFFER legal advice.

  15. “She did mentioned doing a law course before but she never claimed that she is a professional.
    Neither have ANY of her submissions suggested in depth knowledge of any law.”

    @ Donna

    I completed several law courses at UWI a particular school that provides such training and ACCA.

    But, that does not qualify me to claim I’m a lawyer or give legal advice.

  16. DUMB anonymous people looking for explanations…..and can’t explain why they lack an array of critical thinking skills and knowledge….

    dah fuh lik wunna, ya look just right in ya IGNORANT STATE….providing enterainment for those with more savvy…

    cahn defend the indefensibile…..can’t refute anything i say…..dumb as rocks….ya should’ve extended ya knowledge base…

  17. How can you have NO CLUE what’s going on, and it’s going on RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU…

  18. WURA, bottom line is you are a JACKASS.

    You POSTED contributions to BU, using SEVERAL DIFFERENT PSEUDONYMS, including Danielle Gomez, which ISN’T YOUR REAL NAME.

    But it was only when you assumed the identity of Yokando Grant, that you decided to CUSS anonymous bloggers.

    …… a LIAR and FRAUD.


    You do not have any credibility and is no way ASSOCIATED with African Online Publishing.

    And I’m AWAITING comments from your fan club, so I could RESPOND ACCORDINGLY.

  19. The negative people on Bu are invariably low energy opposition plebeians
    and like DLP and Ronnie are going nowhere fast
    next election he will lose and be replaced again

    War does not make sense
    War what is it good for
    Absolutely nothing

    Criminal Element Orchestra

    ABC / OPP (The “Yo Man, You Down With OPP?” Mix)

    Blowout Expressions – Blow Out Express

  20. African Online Publishing Copyright ⓒ 2022. All Rights ReservedOctober 17, 2022 1:13 PM #: “Amateurs pretending they know but don’t. If not for google would more than likely not be able to string 2 sentences together, and in spite of google still rambling all over the place.”

    A FRAUD attempting to convince this forum she is versed in law.

    However, her contribution to the issue concerning the Trustee’s letter to claimants of Harlequin Boutique Hotel Limited, a receivership, CLEARLY SUGGESTS OTHERWISE and provides BU with ONE of MANY perfect examples of how she Googled and misinterpreted simple, straightforward information and “was rambling all over the place” with shiite.

  21. Pingback: 9-day Wonder Wonder Redefined – A Matter of Governance AND Holding Public Figures Accountable | Barbados Underground

  22. Artax where is the fraud defenders like Pacha, Skinner, Baje and TLSN? Notice everytime she is proven to be lying they all disappear rather than calling her out.I believe they are waiting for the next so called breaking story to jump on her bandwagon.I do not know why David Bu has tolerated her on his blog for so long hogging evrry story eith shite talk.In my view she should have suffered the same fate as AC and the other one from the UK.I gone.

    Allow me to make two small points
    (1) I am wondering if the problems encountered with the “questionnaire” was what encouraged officials in Virginia to come to Barbados. Their reasoning “No self-respecting teacher would remain in a position where he/she can be kicked out of the classroom and strangers allowed ”

    (2) Education in the USA is no picnic. I am wondering if folks who can easily be kept out of a classroom are of the right metal to teach in the US. Politics, region, sex education and some rough.tough students may be too much for these Bajan flowers.

    Bajans must choose their words and acronyms more carefully. There is an element of humor in referring to the departure of teachers as “no brain drain”.
    Have a great y’all.

  24. In USA the Police had a Target to put every black youth on their Criminal Database. They stop youths on sus (suspicion) and would check their records they used to say “If you are black and don’t have a record, then you must be a liar”

    Fuck Tha Police
    Right about now NWA court is in full effect

    Order, order, order, Ice Cube take the motherfuckin’ stand
    Do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth
    And nothin’ but the truth so help your black ass?
    You goddamn right
    Well, won’t you tell everybody what the fuck you gotta say?

    Fuck the police comin’ straight from the underground
    A Young nigga got it bad ’cause I’m brown
    And not the other color so police think
    They have the authority to kill a minority
    Fuck that shit, ’cause I ain’t the one
    For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun
    To be beatin’ on, and thrown in jail
    We can go toe-to-toe in the middle of a cell

    Fuckin with me ’cause I’m a teenager
    With a little bit of gold and a pager
    Searchin’ my car, lookin’ for the product
    Thinkin’ every nigga is sellin’ narcotics
    Bone Thugs N Harmony

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