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.

Parents in Barbados Query Strange Test, Sex Test, Science Test

The following is shared from on the issue of a controversial survey sponsored by the Ministry of Education – Blogmaster

October 6, 2022 by Amit Uttamchandani responds to questions around controversial test in Barbados logo, Source: Wikipedia

On October 5th, Barbados Today published an article about a controversial computer science test held in Barbados. 

The original article, and subsequent Oct 6 articles mentioned, the Ministry of Education, Technological & Vocational Training, and the Inter-American Development Bank, (see herehere and here). I contacted on October 5 and asked the following questions: questions from Amit
Screenshot of Questions sent on Oct 5, 2022 (click to enlarge).

Today (Oct 6), I received the following reply from responses from Amit.
Screenshot of Reply received Oct 6, 2022 (click to enlarge).

As per BT’s initial Oct 5 and 6th articles, and’s Oct 6th reply to my queries (and the IDB’s Oct 6th statement and apology, and The Ministry’s response and apology), it seems – to me at least – that was not involved.

Posted by

Controversial Survey as under:

Ministry Breaking the Law!

Submitted by Paula Sealy
Chief Education Officer – Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw

According to Section 42 of the Charities Act mandatory audited financial statements are required of charitable organisations. According to subsection 6 any person who fails to do so is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of $1000 or imprisonment for 6 months and an additional fine of $100 for every day during which the offence continues after a conviction is first obtained.

This seems reasonable enough.

What seems unreasonable in comparison is how the boards of public secondary schools are getting away with murder where the public purse is concerned. According to section 10 of the Education Regulations the Board shall, not later than 30th September in each year, or such later date as the Minister approves cause its accounts for the preceding financial year to be audited, and prepared for that financial year, in such manner as the Minister approves.

There is no mention of any fine or imprisonment at all.

The last published report of the Auditor General revealed only two public secondary schools filed statements for the financial year ended 31 March 2020.

Will the chairmen of the boards of management of public secondary school boards be made to follow the law? Is it because they are appointed by friends and family in Cabinet that these boards can spend as they please? Are these boards exempt from the Financial Administration and Audit Act?

Why does Government want to punish crooked charities but not crooked boards and board members who are responsible for millions of taxpayers’ dollars each year?

The last DLP government published the Gazette free online but this BLP government wants us to pay to see the public information in the Gazette. Where is the Freedom of Information Act? God knows who is on the school boards since they were appointed. [Emphasis – Blogmaster]

Auditor General, Leigh Trotman

Since there is one representative each from the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, the Ministry of Education and each secondary school’s Parent Teacher Association on every board there are explanations to be made about how the money is spent in the schools by those members too.

Instead of ensuring the Education Regulations are respected the Ministry of Education allows taxpayers’ money to be spent with no reporting by the school boards. This was happening before the government changed in 2018.

What has been done to stop the slackness since then? Nuff money done spend and audits ain’t [wben] even start yet. This is financial slackness but then the same government wants us to tighten our belts. Does the Minister approve boards not reporting? Does Cabinet support the spending without account?

In the meantime, we can look forward to another report from the Office of the Auditor General to lay out the infelicities of the last financial year.

Over to you, Mr. Leigh Trotman.

See Related/Relevant Links:

Ministry of Education and Madness Initiates Transfers

The blogmaster has received a few messages regarding the sudden decision by the Ministry of Education to transfer Principals from some schools. Here is one that captures key concerns arising from the abrupt change. – David, blogmaster

Once again the Ministry of Education and Madness will send schools into confusion with the abrupt, last minute, poorly thought out shifting of plenty Principals and Deputies at the start of the most difficult school term in modern history and after the ad hoc remote emergency whatever they called it last term- See Nation Newspaper Article.

Word has it that Principals of Frederick Smith, Lester Vaughn, Darryl Jordan, Alexandra and Deighton Griffith have been instructed to move on, even though they prefer to stay for now because of the stress and headaches they went through to get their own schools up and running. Word also has it that plenty Deputies are being moved and in at least two cases BOTH the Principal AND Deputy at the same school has been shifted. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Admittedly some of these schools have had their recent share of trouble, but, others appear to have been doing reasonably well with their current leaders.

Common sense questions have to be asked.

  1. If a principal or teacher isn’t performing why ignore the problem or transfer it somewhere else? Wouldn’t it make more sense to deal with the problem?
  2. Does it really make sense to move a school leader at the last minute in the dying hours in the middle of a crisis response?
  3. How the hell can any one properly assume control of a school, in these “uncertain times” when they are completely IGNORANT of the place where they are being sent?
  4. If Principals are the “problem,” what about others in the system from TOP to BOT-TOM who are also “problems?” Will they just stay put and continue to humbug the place?
  5. Did anyone even bother to talk to parents and students to see how THEY feel about this???
  6. Who’s really making these confusing, chaotic and random decisions in the Ministry? Who??

By the way- is there any truth to reports that there have already been resignations by some members of Board of Managements in protest with more to come this week??? And is it true that some of these moves have nothing to do with the schools but everything to do with “hearsay, agendas and multi-coloured shadows?”

If this is what educational leadership and reform looks like then God help us and our children.

Back to School AND No Child Must Be Left Behind

COVID 19 Impact

One only has to drive pass the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) any day of the week during the the 3PM to 6PM time slot to appreciate the debilitating effect the raging pandemic continues to wreck on the country’s main economic sector. The number of vehicles seen in the car park can be comfortably counted on a single hand.

Consistent with how Covid 19 has catspraddle business the recent posting of Goddards Enterprises 9 month unaudited financial statement paints the sorry tale.

The threat to a sustainable way of life is real!

The inability of key stakeholders – the Ministry of Education (MOE) and respective teacher’s unions to discuss Covid 19 protocols in a constructive environment in order to facilitate the commencement of the proposed September 21, 2020 term has come as no surprise. The relationship between successive governments, Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) and Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has been unnecessarily acrimonious through the years. The same point made here about the failure to pass the Integrity in Public Life Bill is apt. All sides will never secure what they want, however, for the greater good there must be give and take.

Our leaders MUST find the solution to get the nation’s children back to school. All agree we have to find ways to coexist with Covid 19 because it will be with us for the foreseeable future even if a vaccine or therapeutic treatment is approved by end of year. This is not the time for the unions and MOE to engage in the usual pedantic offerings cloaked under the guise of industrial relations best practice. Children getting back to the classroom has wider implications for the country if we assess the relationship between home, school and work.

It was reported the 340 teachers and principals who turned up today for a general meeting called by the MOE had a constructive engagement. Let us hope attempts will be made to share findings with the executive of the BUT and BSTU to ensure there is consensus on the best way forward. Although the unions are important stakeholders the MOE has the responsibility to lead the process.

The issue of the reopening of schools is one high on the agenda for almost every country in the world. The risk benefit to decisions taken by the MOE must be data driven. There is the reality we have to accept that COVID 19 is active in the environment we have to exist, therefore there is an inherent risk to being infected. This means controls to mitigate must be well thought out, publicised, monitored and enforced. As adults – MOE, BSTU, BUT and others – we have a legal and moral duty to protect our children during one of the most frightening periods in the existence of humankind.

The feedback coming from some teachers that they are on vacation and should not have been asked to attend the meeting held today must be regarded as a minority view. If it is not then may God help us if this level of mentality exist. The government is on record declaring its committent to pay the large public sector wage bill until the economy improves. One thing the economists agree on is that it takes an economy longer to grow than it takes to contract. The time is coming soon when the government will have to start printing money and with it the implications for negative impact on the foreign reserves. The Freundel Stuart government found itself in a similar situation of printing money to pay public servants, a reread of archived central bank reports should remind us how that played out. Should we have the infants do a performance of ‘there’s a hole in my bucket dear Liza? This is not time for the usual political rhetoric.

We acknowledge the concerns of all sides.

We have to ensure the environment is safe for our students.

We have to ensure the method to deliver the curriculum ensures no child is left behind.

The use of the repetitive WE is not accidental.

Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw Makes Shocking Revelation

There has always been consensus by the BU family that at the root of our problems is an irrelevant and dysfunctional education system.  It was therefore important to listen  to Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw as she and her team appeared before the 2019 House Appropriation Debate – Standing Finance Committee OWN the problems with a promise to reform the education system.

It was interesting to note Bradshaw’s assessment of the current education system if compared to her predecessor Ronald Jones. He offered no similar critiques during his lengthy tenure as minister of education. What a difference a general election makes!

A poignant moment came in the presentation when Minister Bradshaw stated that problems identified by the criterion test at 9 years old were not remediated before the child had to do the 11+. It there translated to young children condemned as failures by society. Some may suggest another poignant moment occurred when the Prime Minister asked Chief Education Officer what recommendation would she make to improve the leadership in the schools. Her response will floor you!

Watch Santia Bradshaw, Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training share the challenges and opportunities  faced by her ministry.

A must listen for all Barbadians!


The Nation Newspaper Gaffe: A Case NOT to EXPLOIT Children

Photo Credit: Barbados Today

Photo Credit: Barbados Today

The Fourth Estate plays a critical role to the proper functioning of a democracy, it must. Providing citizens with information which equips them to make the best decisions and at the same time act as a watchdog targeting those who act as gatekeepers of authority and influence in our society. Any attempt to sanitize, filter, manipulate information which it feeds to the public must be rejected as a fourth estate reneging on its obligation. The consequence is a compromised democracy.

In Barbados the media [fourth estate] is heavily self-censored. With the exception of a couple media practitioners there is a lack of respect for the profession by the decisionmakers and general public. It is fair to suggest that media workers demonstrate a lack of respect for themselves if we are to judge their inability to promote a vibrant union or association. The Barbados Association of Journalists (BAJ) does not even have an official website or Facebook presence in 2013 such is the inadequacy of how media workers see themselves.

Related Link: Statement issued by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ag) Crime, Lionel M. Thompson

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Children In Jeopardy Of Not Getting Reports

Submitted by HaHa

Hon Ronald Jones, Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation

Hon Ronald Jones, Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation

As the school term draws to an end, many schools have been put on high alert as the newly and fully adopted educational management information system (EMIS) Abusstar which was contracted for millions under Minister Ronald Jones (former Information Technology Coordinator) is not producing much needed statistical information.

Apparently, the CEO of the company has requested millions more to be able to produce the statistics and is planning to withdraw the system just before the end of the term leaving schools without the ability to produce reports. Meetings with Principals and ITCs at the various schools were held to inform them of the imminent embarrassment.

Further to this, Barbados is losing valuable aid from the United Nations because they have been unable to produce complete statistics for the last 2 years since Abusstar’s mandatory adoption as instructed by Minister Jones.

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Notes From a Native Son: The Role of Education Policy in Development Part One

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

The immediacy of the financial economic crisis facing Barbados is so important that there is a real danger of this single issue crowding out other equally important social and cultural policy initiatives, many of them far more important to the long-term development of the nation and its people. But, for a variety of reasons, including the routine acceptance of mediocrity, politicians, policymakers, parents and education professionals prefer to remain silent about the acceptance of this new normal rather than bite the bullet. Our nation is the poorer for this.

Knowledge-based Society:
For all kinds of reasons previously discussed in this blog, including demography, geographical size and economic limitations, the great opportunity for economic growth in Barbados is to develop a knowledge-based skilfully and prudently economy by utilising our limited resources and human capital to meet this collective goal. However, to do this in any objective and scientific way will mean confronting a number of demanding challenges, such as defining what it is we want to achieve as a society and the extent of the deferred gratification we are prepared to endure.

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“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”

Principals in the Alexandra School Dispute

As an expression of our disgust caused by the Alexandra dispute Barbados Underground will not update new blogs until strike action ends.

Education is regarded as a fundamental human right and the absence of 30 teachers from the classrooms of the Alexandra School for close to two weeks is a failure on the part of leadership of Barbados. The frightening reality that the ‘fracture’ has occurred in the education sector should place an accent on the gravamen of the challenge which confronts us.

Think on these things Barbados.

Alexandra School Dispute – Who Shall Lead The Children?

Submitted by Chuckles

Mary Redman, BSTU President

I would like to divert a bit and ask you [Caswell Franklyn] to make your services available to the BSTU/Mary Redman. What is this woman doing to the school children at the Alexandra School?

I was a member of the BWU for about 18 months before I left these shores to take up employment overseas. The first thing the Late Sir Frank Walcott told a group of new members of which I was one, was that the Union doesn’t go on strike until it gets public sympathy and support. Where did this woman do her trade-unionism training? A few weeks ago she was all over the news media trying to defend the indefensible i.e a teacher submitting SBA studies late to the CXC resulting in all the students failing the subject. Today teachers at the institution wouldn’t be in the classroom due to a dispute between her union members and the principal. The biggest Trade Union, NUPW isn’t backing her and from all reports the BUT members not losing a day’s pay over a non-issue.