NEED TO ADDRESS CONFLICT IN SCHOOLS

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Pictured (from left to right) are Principal of the Alexandra School, and President of the Barbados  Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools, Jeff Broome, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones and General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations, (CTUSAB), Dennis DePeiza, at a one day seminar for Principals of Public Secondary Schools, at the Lester Vaughan Secondary School. There is a need to face conflict head-on in schools. This recommendation was made today by Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, while addressing a one-day workshop for Principals of Public Secondary Schools, at the Lester Vaughan Secondary School, St. Thomas.

Mr. Jones stated that there were “innumerable instances of conflict and dissatisfaction”. He cited bullying and ragging as some examples and reminded persons that not everyone could deal with the extremes of such behaviour.

The Minister noted that other areas of conflict included the mis-use of cellular phones by some students. He said he was not advocating the banning of cell phones since technology must be used to advance man’s development. However, he told the Principals that they had to deal with those persons who used the technology in what he termed “a demonic manner”. He admitted that in many cases this trend was derived as a result of learnt behaviour with some adults abusing the technology.

He pointed to other instances of conflict such as “bad behaviour” on school buses, which he referred to as “a disturbing trend”. Mr. Jones indicated that it was part of government’s policy to facilitate free transportation for school students. However, he stressed that this free movement should not be jeopardised as a result of any deviant conduct.

He suggested, therefore, that the only means of remedying the situation was “to keep talking” and for principals to “stand firm” until individuals understood the harm they were creating. 

The Minister of Education reminded the principals that their mandate was to bring change and therefore they needed to equip themselves to better understand the complexities of interpersonal relationships in the school system. He said schools were places “where there are large numbers of persons with different experiences and from a variety of backgrounds. If not properly managed, this situation can lead to conflict,” he opined.

Mr. Jones stressed that there “must be collaboration among students, parents and teachers for the school to function as an effective learning organisation”.

Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), Dennis Depeiza, admitted that there were some deficiencies in the industrial relations and human resources practices at the level of management of both the Primary and Secondary Schools. He advocated the inclusion of an Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management module to the two year training programme being offered by Erdiston Teachers’ Training College.

“I wish to impress upon my colleagues that good industrial relations practices will lead to employee satisfaction and a harmonious working relationship. This can be achieved where good communication, driven by collaboration and consultation, are evident in your approach to management,” Mr. Depeiza indicated.

The workshop for Principals of Public Secondary Schools was sponsored by the Barbados Workers’ Union as part of its Social Partners’ 2009 Week of Excellence. It had as its theme: “Understanding Industrial Relations in a School Environment.”

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