by Genea Noel - Freeport News Reporter

In the wake of the many sexual allegation cases that rocked the nation involving teachers and students, male teachers from various schools on the island participated in a one-day seminar hosted

by the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) yesterday to share their concerns about the profession.

More than 150 male teachers gathered at the Church of the Ascension Hall where they heard from several speakers, including Dr. Wayne Thompson and Police officers from the Sexual Crimes Unit who spoke on the theme “Males making a Difference.”

According to BUT president, Belinda Wilson, she wanted to create an open and free environment for the teachers to express themselves, therefore all females and officials from the Ministry of Education were dismissed before the sessions began.

Speaking to The Freeport News, Wilson explained that a similar exercise was done in New Providence and will continue throughout the entire Bahamas.

The information gathered will then be compiled as a position paper to present to The Ministry of Education.

“These seminars came up after we got so many concerns for the teachers about sexual allegations or misconduct with teachers and students and the additional concern about false allegations,” Wilson said.

“The objective will be to determine a way forward and how best we can guide our men and also to protect them to ensure that due process is also followed in the incidence that allegations are made.”

Wilson said that the seminar also gave the male teachers an opportunity to dialogue and share with each other.

“A lot of times we look at the males as the macho men, but I think today that we have paused to say that we understand what they are going through and that they may need assistance and guidance in some areas.”

She added that male teachers are seriously challenged now, especially in the technical, physical education or performing arts areas.

Those subjects, Wilson said, which may require some demonstration or physical contact with students as a strategy or skill to impart knowledge or to explain what it is the students should be learning.

“It is definitely a challenge that we are aware of and even in our position paper that we propose to present to the Ministry we want to put some protocols in place as to how we would go forward with that.”

Wilson said the culture of teaching is evolving and the recent allegations have brought about a needed awareness and persons are now sensitized on what may be happening.

The seminar, she added, is a good investment in education and she said she looks forward to the end result.

The Freeport News spoke to Eight Mile Rock High School (EMRHS) teacher Ricky Saunders, who said that the recent allegations of sexual misconduct against teachers makes the seminar a timely one to combat the issues.

“It will probably help to bring us all back to the core of what teaching is all about. We are responsible for educating our kids and they have been entrusted to us and we have to do a better job about that,” he said.

” We have to be responsible for our actions we cannot run away from the fact that we have to be responsible because they are kids and we are adults and that must be a clearly defined line that we must draw and it should not be crossed.”

However, Saunders said that the tense situation in the classroom has forced many male teachers to take a “stand off” approach to teaching and teachers are now strangers, afraid that any boundaries may be presumed crossed by students.

“You cannot teach a stranger, so right now it is hard to build any type of relationship with the kids because guards are up because no one wants to be accused of anything when they are trying to do their job,” he explained.

“You cannot be personable with the students so it is now hard for them to trust you or feel that you care. With some students they feel that the teacher is not concerned they will not be willing to learn and the stand off approach is not always effective.”

In this day in time, Saunders said that there are not many fathers in the home and male teachers are sometimes that father figure to students whether we want to accept that or not.

Hopefully, Saunders said that the seminar will bring back the appropriate personal touch to teaching so more students will be willing to learn.

In addition to the sexual issues that were discussed in the seminar, Wilson said that the Union is getting ready for the new collective bargaining unit to present to the government and they will gather input from the male teachers in regard to benefits and other issues they face.