On Wednesday hundreds of secondary teachers took to the streets of Barbados' capital Bridgetown in a "March for Respect" to protest recent moves by the Ministry of Education to enforce marking of standardized tests.
"At our last meeting just under two weeks ago, the membership insisted that they wanted to engage in some form of protest and they were tired of the number of ways in which teachers and the union were being disrespected," said Mary Redman, president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers' Union.
Wednesday's protest was prompted by threats from the education minister, Ronald Jones, that any teacher who refused to mark a key component of the nationwide exam required for high school graduation would be disciplined for misconduct.
Students across the island must write externally administered Caribbean Examination Council exams in order to graduate. BSTU members argue that the marking of the school-based projects portion of the exam is not part of their contracts, and thus the ministry is demanding unpaid work from already underpaid teachers.
"When you don't stand up for yourself and demonstrate that you are professionals and that you need to be treated like that at all times, then you are treated like a cornered animal. Everybody will then take jabs at you and that is the reality," Redman told members during a meeting to plan a response to the minister's threat.
Mass Teachers Strike in Argentina
The battle over the examination marking is, according to Redman, the latest in a series of insults to secondary teachers.
"At the beginning of the year, we had a general meeting of our membership and we said that 2017 would be a different type of year, that we were tired of writing letters, we were tired of being given the turnaround, we were tired of being dismissed, we were tired of being excluded and so, 2017 was going to be a year of action," she stated.
While there was no response from the minister, Redman said that her members were determined to see their fight through to the end.
"This demonstration today is just the beginning," she said.