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Within the past week, my former school, Bishops’ High School, has made some headlines. Unfortunately, not for the usual positive news of the stellar performance of the students, but of allegations of abuse meted out to students by teachers. I follow these developments with disappointment and dismay. Not because I find the accounts unbelievable, but because apparently little has changed since I’ve left Bishops’ all these years.
I have read these stories, bravely shared by current and former students. I have reflected on my own experiences and those that I witnessed during my years at Bishops’. Too many persons across various years have shared their own stories of trauma, to make the allegations untrue. I can also attest to the fact that the culture at Bishops’ relies heavily on shaming and ridiculing students who are perceived as different, weak, or “stupid”, or “misbehaving children”. In 2020, with a wealth of modern teaching techniques, psychology and research that points to the need of a positive environment for learning and child development, we should not be accepting these behaviours as normal and acceptable.
I am further disappointed by the response of the teachers and school administration. Striking and demanding silence simply points to the fact that bullying and asserting power over others are the school’s tried and true methods of punishing anyone that “steps out of line”. If the school is so concerned about its reputation; the teachers, administration, PTA, governance board (every single adult involved in the institution) should demand an open and independent investigation into its organisational practices and the conduct of teachers. Additionally, an investigation needs to be done in a way that does not cause any further harm and prioritises the needs of victims and survivors. Such an investigation will reveal that something needs to change urgently. An investigation also needs to lay out recommendations for transformation, justice, and reparations (here I would recommend paying for counselling services for those affected. Yes, the trauma has been that deep). I also call on the Ministry of Education to step in. It is evident at this point, that the Bishops’ High School is incapable of holding itself to a higher standard as it demands of its students.
Salima A. Bacchus-Hinds
Former Bishops’ student