I believe that 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, a 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, as corrupt as it may be, must be maintained! But more on that later.
Years ago when I was P.R.O. and then President of the B.S.T.U. this issue of violence against teachers raised its head and from then till now, some 18 years later. Successive Ministries of Education under various Ministers, the worst being the present, have 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 the next steps need 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 make their 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 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 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 that I am not suggesting that teachers are always right and children always wrong because that would be far from the truth. There have been instances where teachers have caused things upon themselves due to the inability to cope with certain personalities in the classroom. Some teachers were not born to be teachers but end up doing it 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? One guidance counsellor per secondary school of 1000 children is adequate? One psychologist at the Ministry is enough? Abolishing corporal punishment is the answer? The countries which have taken that 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? Can you imagine a Minister taking up a portfolio which contains important mandates as written in the Education Act and only after 8 years, comes out to say that he never liked Corporal Punishment. What is even worse is that he has insulted all Principals, Deputies and Senior Teachers by implying that they should all be locked up for assault. I wonder what BAPPSS’s response will be, being the soft organisation 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 which 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 which 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 he is supposed to be the CEO on the compound. They don’t even get to browse the Smart Stream 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 those 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, (notice the small letter) 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 & 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 chastised for being asked by teachers what to do. He didn’t even have a clue what was going on. He asked if the teachers think I am “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 that a troublemaker like me does 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 Ministry, Erdiston, UWI, two Board members and such. Then when Princess Margaret was up, again between the first and second interviews the panel 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 amount 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 in to her office to tell me that while I am tutoring at Erdiston College in Strategic Planning to Principals by the way, I must not say anything against the Ministry even if it is 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 10 years to really come out and expose the foolishness that goes on in this country, damaging and destroying the lives and psyches of many seriously-minded and hard-working individuals in this country. Using the word “Recommendation” to imply that it can be accepted or refused. All set up for ulterior motives to satisfy friends and cohorts like those now at the Ministry, names best left unsaid. I can’t forget the campaign manager of a minister that 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 T.V. Were you a teacher or not? Which subject, I cannot imagine. A Union leader? Really!
Gone, but not for long!