The new president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), Rudy Lovell, says continuing dialogue on the return to face-to-face classes will be a priority for the body.
But he warned there were other hazards in schools prior to COVID-19 – the reason why there has been little to no in-person teaching for the past two years – that also have to be resolved.
Lovell made the comments in a brief video message after defeating Dwane Goddard by 244 votes to 63 on Saturday.
“Our first order of business is to continue the discussion with stakeholders on a return to face-to-face classes to ensure a smooth rollout for the benefit of both students and teachers. We are mindful that hazards existed in the schools before the onset of COVID-19 and we therefore want to ensure that these many hazards, including faulty windows and doors which can inhibit proper ventilation, and damaged toilets and bathrooms sinks that can prevent proper sanitisation, don’t serve to exacerbate a difficult situation,” Lovell noted.
“These, along with other hazards, can lead to the spread of COVID-19 in schools and they need to be rectified. To this end, we are hopeful that the dialogue will not be curtailed to meet the deadline for hosting a press conference, as was done in the past. The BUT stands committed to the process of meaningful dialogue.”
There are increasing cries for a return to the classroom, and last Friday, new Minister of Education, Kay McConney, said they were still working towards the February 21 deadline. Consultation was also being done with the various teachers’ unions, the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations and other stakeholders, she said.
“This roadmap outlines the physical requirements and support systems that are needed for the safest return . . . . Our intention, in the best interest of our children, is the finalisation of the roadmap with a view to both public and private schools resuming face-to-face classes on February 21,” McConney said in a statement issued via the Barbados Government Information Service.
Earlier on Saturday, the group Safely Open Schools Barbados, also staged a peaceful protest along Bay Street, St Michael calling for the reopening of schools.
Lovell, who thanked God and those who voted for him, said as president he would continue to listen to teachers’ concerns and represent their interests.
In addition to improving communication within the trade union, he said there would also be a professional development drive in the areas of public speaking, special education and animation.
Lovell has held several roles within the BUT. He served as first vice president, second vice president, deputy general secretary and chairman of stewards. He became acting president on January 4 after Pedro Shepherd resigned to contest the General Election as the Democratic Labour Party candidate for St Michael South East.
Voting was a combination of in-house ballots at BUT headquarters, Merryhill, Welches, St Michael from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, with an extra hour for those casting ballots online. (SAT)