In response to a Sept. 15 teacher sit-in protesting classroom conditions and other issues at Elmore Stoutt High School, education officials met with ESHS administration and staff last week to discuss various concerns, according to the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports. They also warned teachers to follow standard protocols when taking future industrial action in order to avoid endangering students.

“The meeting was in response to the … sit-in and subsequent letter sent by the BVI Teachers’ Union, which highlighted certain issues at ESHS,” the ministry noted in a statement, adding that Education, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie de Castro “provided updates on all actions taken by the ministry to address the concerns, verbally at the meeting and by way of letters dated [Sept. 21 and 26].”

Also at the meeting were the ministry’s acting permanent secretary and the acting chief education officer, according to the statement, which did not name either official.

“The ministry conducted an assessment and concluded that there was a significant communication gap, which hindered its ability to fully understand and address the teachers’ concerns,” the statement explained.

The ministry, it added, has in place a mechanism for the submission of official reports from schools.

“Those reports play a pivotal role in the ministry’s ability to understand, assess and ultimately remedy any challenges faced within our educational institutions,” the ministry stated. “Such documentation also provides the insight necessary to make informed decisions, allocate resources and swiftly take any action necessary.”

The ministry also stressed the importance of ongoing dialogue with teachers.

But it warned about the possible consequences of strikes, noting, “The safety of students is a shared responsibility, and it is essential that industrial action, if it becomes necessary, is considered through a structured and responsible process.”

Warning to teachers

The ministry added that standards supported by the International Labour Organization include an obligation to give prior notice of industrial action and to first engage in dispute resolution and adopt measures to comply with safety requirements and prevent accidents.

“The ministry did not receive any notice of the majority of the grievances which caused the teachers to take industrial action on [Sept. 15] or about the fact that industrial action was being contemplated,” the ministry stated. “Thus, the ministry did not have an opportunity to take corrective action in relation to the concerns of the teachers prior to the sit-in on [Sept. 15] or to take steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students during that time.”

At the meeting, a “majority of teachers” agreed not to undertake further industrial action without first giving notice and allowing the ministry “a reasonable opportunity” to address their concerns and take any action needed for students’ wellbeing, according to the statement.


The ministry also claimed that it has taken several steps in response to the complaints.

“Efforts to improve the school compound and facilities included grass cutting, utilisation of available classrooms and tents for lunch seating with supervision, and ongoing recruitment for a vacant janitorial position,” the statement noted.

‘Extreme heat’

Fans were also procured to address the “extreme heat” in classrooms, and air-conditioning maintenance is in progress, the ministry added.

“Mould assessments are ongoing, while electrical voltage and socket issues have been reported to the Recovery and Development Agency, and efforts to enhance internet connectivity through configuration and authentication are underway,” the statement continued. “Additionally, there is a focus on timely curriculum resource procurement, addressing adequate space for staff, and the prioritisation of teachers in the salary review process.”

Attempts to reach Sean Henry, the president of the BVI Teachers Union, were not successful.