???An intense person???, ???highly committed to ideals??? and ???filled with tenacity??? is how Education Minister, Ronald Jones, described former Principal of the Graydon Sealy Secondary School, Matthew Farley, at a retirement function last Saturday, at the Hilton Barbados.
The Minister spoke first of Mr. Farley???s days in the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), noting that when the latter served as Deputy General Secretary, one could be assured ???that minutes were always present at every meeting and extremely well prepared???.
Pointing out that he and Mr. Farley were competitive on two occasions for the leadership of that Union, Mr. Jones said though he won, it never soured the communication between them. Maintaining there was no ???bad blood???, Mr. Jones attributed it to tenacity which came from Mr. Farley???s strength of character in believing he should stay the course regardless and to his commitment to ideals.
???Lesser persons would have stopped. Lesser persons would not have demonstrated their commitment to social activism, representation and bringing teachers to the centre,??? he told the audience, made up of Mr. Farley???s family, teachers, former Chief Education Officer, Ralph Boyce; former principal of the Barbados Community College, Norma Holder; and the former principal, after whom the school is named, Graydon Sealy.
Acknowledging that not everyone would have loved Mr. Farley???s style or manner, Mr. Jones called for more ???Matthew Farleys??? in the education system, stressing that persons needed to stay firm and committed while still listening to the other person. ???You might not change your mind after you have listened, but the important thing is to give the human being an ear. And, I believe Matthew did that,??? he added.
Tributes from staff members portrayed Mr. Farley as a motivating influence on students and teachers, compassionate and not afraid to stand alone on issues, particularly his stance on a strict dress code on the length of skirts and the appropriate school shoes.
Mr. Farley, in his reply, referred to himself as an educational practitioner and a passionate member of ???the most noble profession there is in the world???. Praising God, he admitted he was proud to have demonstrated the level of commitment and dedication to his charges, his calling and the people of Barbados on whose behalf he worked in the process of nation building, through education.
The man of the moment explained there was a social and historical context that shaped his approach. He said: ???But all that I achieved as an educator over the four decades of my career was rooted in a dynamic and emerging philosophy that placed the child???s interest at the centre of everything I did???. The children I taught came out of the historical experience that saw them for the most part being beleaguered by social class issues, self-esteem issues, issues of poverty and social dysfunction.
???Their parents, like mine, and my grandparents had little education and were generally confined to the plantation experience, from which it seemed impossible to extricate themselves. And, I was driven by a passion that recognised that education was the vehicle that had the power to transport them and us out of that social entrapment into a world of limitless possibilities. It was for this simple reason that I insisted on high standards, strict discipline, and the pursuit of excellence.???
Mr. Farley officially retired on August 31, 2014, after 41 years in the teaching profession.