Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Senator Harry Husbands (centre) in conversation with Principal of Metropolitan High School, Olivier Cox (right) and Chairman of the Board of Managment, Louis Forde (left) during?? a??tour of the school’s facilities today.??(A. Miller/BGIS)

As Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Harry Husbands, continues to "assess the current situation with private education in Barbados", he is calling on providers to form an association.

Senator Husbands made this appeal as he toured Metropolitan High School, on Roebuck Street, with officials of the Ministry and its Principal Olivier Cox, today.

Speaking to the media at the end of the tour, Mr. Husbands said: "One of the things I think needs to happen… is that private educational providers whether at primary or secondary level need to form an association that can be used for the purpose of discussions with Government, [and] lobbying Government."

He also suggested that Government may need "to have some section in the Ministry [of Education] if not wholly, then partially, dedicated to looking after the interest and concerns of the people in the private education sector."

Of the school, Senator Husbands said: "One cannot leave here without fully recognising the role of Metropolitan [High School]. ??Metropolitan didn’t begin yesterday.?? It has played a tremendous role in the educational development of Barbados. Mr Cox is an icon, I suppose, in the history of education with respect to the role played by Principals in education."

Noting that its current situation would soon be assessed at an upcoming school board meeting, he commended Metropolitan High School on its progress despite difficult circumstances and said the Ministry would attempt to offer any assistance to the institution.

The Parliamentary Secretary also reiterated the need for private schools to consider the notion of becoming "centres of excellence".?? "How do we bring and encourage greater private education in Barbados? On one hand it is some of the older schools that are closing, but if you notice Codrington High, [and] Providence [are not]…It is not a one-dimensional picture at all…There are schools with challenges, there are some new ones, [and] some are expanding.?? So it is a varied picture.?? I believe that one of the things we have to focus on is how do we make Barbados into a centre of excellence for private education," Mr. Husbands queried.

Pointing out that his experience working with the Immigration Department had made him aware that several people overseas, in developed countries, wanted to send their children for primary and secondary level education in Barbados, Senator

Husbands stressed that this represented an opportunity for Barbados to garner foreign exchange, and it was in this context that he was "looking at the [private] schools".

Principal Cox explained that his school started operations months after Hurricane Janet in 1955, and was named after the word for main city – "metropolis". It comprises a nursery school, day school, evening and night institute and has a roll of 84 students in the day school with 23 in the nursery section.

Alluding to how schools could become centres of excellence, Mr. Cox said: "Children have got to be taught how to respect themselves.?? The difficulty, I believe, is in getting the children and the parents to see the importance of education. We have to educate them but it is really different now because we have got technology and children are not paying attention. Children today are more skilled in the technology than we are. The important thing is to educate the minds of the children and that is difficult today."

Noting that the student roll was declining, the principal attributed this to a number of factors, saying: "It is cheaper for a parent now to go for public rather than private school… Government schools have got more places now."?? Adding that his biggest challenges included lack of finance, the behaviours of children and addressing the needs of children who were without lunch or who, although there was no bus fare, their parents did not have money to send them to school.

While pointing out that assistance sometimes came from Old Scholars, Mr. Cox lamented: "We have to accept the fact that the private secondary schools are on the way out."


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