Atherley raises several concerns

Leader of the Opposition, Bishop Joseph Atherley, has expressed concern about deviance in our schools, and is questioning what is being done to address it.

He raised the concern while making his contribution to the debate on the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure yesterday, as the budget for the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training was being discussed. Bishop Atherley spoke to the issue of deviance, while suggesting that the Estimates do not reflect whether or not the Ministry has been able to get a grasp of critical issues like that which surround education in this country.

“One could easily walk away, if one did not read too much further beyond, that there is not a signal here of an intention to robustly and urgently address some of these issues. A couple I would like to raise, Madam Chair – the spread of deviance in the school system in Barbados today... What is the intention of the Ministry in the plan with respect to addressing deviance in the school system, and beyond that, the extent that the Ministry of Education can be involved?” he said.

Beyond deviance, the Opposition Leader is asking for a clear plan to address the “seeming sense of disillusionment” among many school-leavers from both secondary and tertiary institutions. He said they are very negative in terms of their outlook, in respect of their chances of finding career and job opportunities in this country.

“Barbados is faced with some economic constraints. We understand the level of employment that now is current, but I have repeatedly said that beyond the level of unemployment, there is what I call the scourge of underemployment in Barbados and certainly that is something with which the Ministry would have to be significantly concerned,” the Bishop stated.

Atherley’s comments came as he noted that this country invests millions of dollars every year in the education system and we are “producing good products” from the system, but he lamented that beyond that, the situation they find themselves in on completing their studies, does not lead to great optimism.

“I would want to think that this is one of the things with which we would concern ourselves as we talk here over the next period with respect to the intentions of this ministry,” he said.

Bishop Atherley also spoke to the apparent growing tension between the Ministry of Education and teachers. Referring to the many public spats between the ministry and the teachers’ unions, the Opposition Leader frowned on such, contending that the country can ill afford for such taking place.

“With all the other challenges we have, we really cannot afford adding that to the mix,” he maintained. (JRT)

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