Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Senator Harry Husbands, speaking with students during his tour of the??Unique High School today. (C. Henry/BGIS)

The challenges, needs and contributions of private primary and secondary schools in Barbados will come under the microscope during this month and into the next school year 2013-2014, as officials of the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation tour a number of these facilities.????

This was made clear today as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry, Senator Harry Husbands toured Unique High School in Dayrells Road, Christ Church.

Senator Husbands, who holds responsibility for both primary and secondary private schools, expressed pleasure at the fact that within the touring party were two former students of Unique School, namely Emmanuel Joseph of Barbados Today and O’Neal Prescod, an Administrative Officer within his Ministry and said: "That?? is a tribute to the fine work and fine contribution that Unique [High School] has made to the educational system in Barbados over the years and in discussion with the principal and officials from the Ministry we are just trying to explore ways in which that unique contribution can continue."

When queried as to whether it was the Ministry’s intention to increase the current subvention to the school, Senator Husbands said: "We are doing this just to become fully aware of the needs, challenges and the contribution of the private educational sector to the educational system in Barbados. At some point down the road that may become an issue, but it is not central to our view and our plans in the future."??

The Parliamentary Secretary told journalists that one area which he was keen on exploring was how Barbados could be made "a centre of excellence for both primary and secondary private education". There are a lot of people who want to send their children to Barbados for both primary and secondary education and [we must think] how

can we make these schools and this aspect of our educational system a centre of excellence and a generator of critical foreign exchange."

Senator Husbands further stated: "Some of the schools in the private sector already do the international baccalaureate, which is even of greater importance in making Barbados a centre of international excellence for private education in the primary and secondary sector, and I think that we in the Ministry would need to explore how much further that we can take that [and] what is necessary in order to develop it – all in the interest of the promotion of Barbados."

As he acknowledged that there was already a foreign medical school established in Barbados, in its infancy, the Parliamentary Secretary added: " We certainly want to, through the mechanism of the Barbados Accreditation Council and TVET, expand?? our reach and scope in this area. But we need, first of all, to have a clear first hand and grounding in what is exactly going on in the private sector and these visits?? to institutions, like this one that has?? a long history of contribution to education, are critical in order to assist?? us in?? shaping that path forward.

"There needs to be more cooperation, more contact between the principals and class teachers in private and public education because there are interesting things I know are going on both in the public and private sector, but we need to create that space where the professionals can share their experiences, I think that is even more critical because there are interesting things going on in both sectors."

The Unique School, which was founded by Mignon Greenidge, is 64 years old and boasts a primary and secondary section. Principal, Monica Crawford noted that the idea of a primary school evolved from the fact that there were students, who had to look after younger siblings and as a result could not come to school. "So we decided to let them bring the smaller ones to school and then they would all be in school and the parents wouldn’t have to worry about the ones who were at home," she stressed.

The school has a roll of 70 students with 32 of these at the primary level. There are 10 teachers. In explaining why the roll was decreasing Mrs. Crawford said: "Some parents are unable to pay the school fees because when a child gets a bursary it is $125 a term and I have to supplement teachers’ salaries sometimes with any monies that I have."

She emphasised that to increase the school fees would mean parents would be unable to pay, and noted that already some students owed, in some cases, fees to the tune of $8,000. "But I don’t want to let them stay [at] home. So they are still at school with me…To say stay [at] home means that they are going to be at home [and] get into any mischief and they won’t be learning anything," she maintained.


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