“The sneak attack on our children.” This is exactly how Bishop Neil Scantlebury of Bridgetown, Barbados described the controversial “pre-test survey” on Computer Science administered by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) at five secondary schools in the diocese. The October 3 survey was done without parental consent.
In a statement issued October 17, Bishop Scantlebury said the further the current debate moves away from the classroom, the more society loses sight of what’s really important: the children.
“…. Let’s set aside the discussion about who objected to what questions and who promised what and what eventually happened. The inclusion, from the very start, of certain questions for impressionable minds and consciences is simply unconscionable, particularly with no parental consent,” the Bishop said.
The offending questions of a psycho-social nature included if they drank alcohol without parents’ approval, deliberately tried to hurt or kill themselves, hear sounds or voices that other people think aren’t there, thought about suicide, sex, wished they were of the opposite sex.
Bishop Scantlebury stated that even some of the non-controversial questions also had the capacity to cause hurt and feelings of inferiority.
He spoke of those children whose honest answers might have left them feeling afraid and alone. “They need to be assured that they are loved by God and us no matter how they might have answered,” he said.
Those children, Bishop Scantlebury underscored, need “compassionate” adults and, in some cases, a professional response. “We trust that those who caused the harm are attending to this now,” Bishop Scantlebury said.
He then cautioned to avoid a repeat of such occurrence by introducing the necessary safeguards at all levels. He directly addressed those who wield power on citizen’s behalf, stating that they must ensure their actions are protecting children – physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
According to Bishop Scantlebury, the survey contained questions that were also tantamount to an invasion of privacy and is just the latest salvo in the onslaught against family life.
Parents, the Bishop highlighted, have a right to be outraged by an attempt to usurp their role. “This is a clarion call for them to reassert their God-given authority to form their own children. Parents, remain vigilant,” Bishop Scantlebury declared.
He said the furore surrounding the test provides an opportune time for citizens to return to basics in schools, like prayerful morning assemblies and a focus on developing virtues. “Put God back into schools,” the Bishop said.
He added that children need to hear that there are God-given boundaries in behaviour and that these are for their own good. “We must be courageous enough to proclaim and defend the truth,” he said.