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Bans imposed by Ministry impractical

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In what appears to be a knee jerk reaction, the Ministry of Education yesterday banned all school outings to picnic sites close to rivers and beaches; boat rides for fund-raising or leisure and school fairs involving loud music or disc jockeys.

As noble as the intentions of the Ministry are, the restrictions as outlined are reactionary and wholly impractical.{{more}}

We fully agree with that school authorities have a basic and fundamental responsibility to provide a safe environment for students in their care during all school related events. We also posit that in some cases, the arrangements put in place for the monitoring and protection of our students, especially during field trips, but also on the school compound, are slipshod and lax.

That being said, we live in a real world and wrapping our students in cocoons will not prepare them to live in that world, nor will it guarantee them protection from dangers which come just by virtue of being alive.

Rather than retreating, our existing guidelines for field trips and school events should be revised and revisited, with special attention being paid to adult to student ratios, the presence of adequate security personnel, lifeguards, health equipment and professionals etc, depending on the nature of the activity.

The Ministry, in yesterday’s circular to schools, gave as the impetus for the imposition of the bans, three incidents that occurred recently, which had links to schools.

Given this response by the Ministry, are we now going to impose a new ban every time an unfortunate incident befalls a student or happens on a school compound?

Has the Ministry considered that some schools now include swimming on their curriculum or that the geography and biology syllabi require students to visit rivers, mangrove swamps and beaches to carry out various research activities? Have our education authorities forgotten that we live on tiny islands and schools would be hard pressed to find venues for field trips that are not close to rivers or beaches?

What of the students from Mayreau or Bequia who travel on boats and ferries to get to school every day? Is their twice daily trip on the seas any less dangerous because it is not being done for leisure or fund-raising? And could the Ministry please explain what is it about disc jockeys or loud music at school fairs that create a dangerous environment for students? Surely, these risks can all be mitigated by more careful planning and management of events. Another look should be taken at this rather drastic move by the Ministry of Education.

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