President Collins charged, “These ministry officials have shown a lack of empathy and have demonstrated that they are unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of our teachers and students. This lack of empathy is foreign to us as a nation but has become much of the norm at the Ministry of Education.”
For some two years now, there have been complaints about teachers and students suffering from various ailments thought to be caused by the agreed contamination being experienced at the campus of the oldest and largest high school in St. Kitts and Nevis. The Ministry of Education, however, has largely disagreed that the school is unsafe and said that there is no concrete evidence to prove that the environment is so compromised that it has led to the health issues reported. Various studies and renovations have been commissioned by the government but the problems persist and the school has been closed for months.
In the meantime as the impasse continues, it has been reported that the Principal of the school is to be transferred. She has been one of the key figures advocating for serious remedial actions and to put the interest and health matters first. The principal is also a senior executive of the St. Kitts teachers Union, which has been leading the charge on behalf of its members.
It was in this regard that Collins said Friday that “We are at a very critical point with this issue and the union having met at its General Council session has taken several decisions to respond to ensure that the rights of the teachers are protected.”
He said the St. Kitts Teachers Union wishes to reiterate its commitment to continue collaborating and working with all stakeholders and the Ministry of Education, to ensure that we have a quality education sector that meets the real needs of all learners. Despite our several challenges, we remain committed to the enhancement and protection of the economic welfare, the professional development and the personal wellbeing of our members and the promotion of the educational interest of our country at large, assured Collins.
But he also revealed that they recognize the magnitude of the responsibility inherent in the teaching process. And that they are still committed to the welfare and the holistic development of all learners.
The SKTU boss however did not mask how he and his union feel about the whole saga and his rebuke of the government was obvious. “The actions of the Ministry of Education however clearly support our view that the ministry of education is not serious about dialogue and discussion. And they were deliberately deceptive, not once, but repeatedly, over a period of months. We are of the view that we were deceived by the continued stalling (of) discussions and refusing to be up front with the union and the BHS teachers about issues with reference to health problems at the school,” said Collins.
He argued that the ministry’s unilateral actions taken without consulting parents and teachers and the union, demonstrate a lack of respect both for parents who entrust their children to the school and for teachers who have educated generations of students.
“Throughout our journey with this ordeal (and) throughout the many problems, the ministry has rebuffed and ignored union requests continually to sit together in meaningful genuine face to face discussions about issues that have arisen at the school during the past few turbulent years,” claimed Collins.
He said “Instead of communicating with parents and teachers and the union, the ministry has been implementing measures to punish our teachers. The teachers have offered an olive branch. The union continues to offer an olive branch urging the ministry to dialogue with teachers and their chosen representatives. Throughout the ordeal we have been alarmed and highly disgusted by the lack of empathy from the educational and health officials about our troubling ailments.”