Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, met with principals recently to discuss how to manage Barbados??? school system, efficiently and effectively. The meeting formed part of ongoing consultations with stakeholders.

Mr. Jones stressed that schools were a microcosm of society and no-one in the education system, including students, was ???immune to the challenges which society presents???.

He stated that his Ministry ???stood on the front line??? trying to address major problems confronting schools and he urged principals to continue to exercise the ???kind of dynamic leadership??? required during the period.

???When you look at the just under 25,000 students in our secondary schools, the vast majority of them are good, decent, young people. But there are some, for whatever reasons, who present some challenges and some extreme challenges in the school system. We also have this as well at the primary system,??? he said, while noting that when this occurred at that level it continued on to the secondary level.

Calling for a redoubling of efforts by all in the education system, since his Ministry could not do it alone, Mr. Jones emphasised that the Ministry was responsible for setting policy and providing guidance and clarification. However, he added: ???The dynamic reality of school creates an environment through which the leadership potential of principals has to be brought to the fore to deal with issues, concerns and behaviours, which no Education Act or regulations could truly cover.???

He emphasised that bullying and other deviant acts would not be tolerated, and particularly pointed to the importance of vigilance. He stressed that any criminal act which occurred on the school compound or outside should be handled by the police. Discussion also centred on what would happen if the bullied child retaliated against the bully and the ensuing repercussion of this situation.

During the three-hour meeting, President of the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools (BAPPS), Vere Parris, called for a demarcation of safe zones around schools to prevent loitering and any unauthorised activity affecting the operation of the school.

At the end of discussions, the Education Minister urged all stakeholders to work together to deal with these serious societal issues. And, he promised to bring together all relevant stakeholders in a major conference to further discuss and address the concerns.

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