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SJCK students protest in support of Principal

SJCK students protest in support of Principal


The students of the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown (SJCK) Monday added their voices to those who have been protesting the reinstatement by the court of a former student of the school.{{more}}

The classrooms of the school remained empty yesterday, as members of the student body congregated at the front gate, many bearing placards, calling on the student at the midst of the impasse, to leave.

“We are protesting in the name of discipline,” one student told SEARCHLIGHT.

“We want justice on the part of the students,” she continued, saying that the students had taken a decision to protest on behalf of the staff and students.

“All of us are upset — exams are a few months away and we can’t be suffering because of one child — so I want justice, because we can’t be suffering because of one,” a fifth form student said.

When asked who planned the demonstration, the student said they, the students did, as they want the student in question to leave.

Malika Providence, Head Girl and a fifth form student, explained that the decision to demonstrate, was taken on Friday.

“Because discipline is a must in any institution, not only at St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown, but considering that we are a convent school, discipline is key and we as students know that and we want to ensure that it is maintained and rebuilt as of today, hopefully,” Providence said.

Principal Calma Balcombe, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, said she did not have much to say on the matter, except that she was at the High Court when she received a call from a member of staff who informed her of what was taking place.

Monday’s protest action by the students, according to Balcombe, came as a surprise.

Two weeks ago, on September 23, teachers at the SJCK walked off the job when the student who had been transferred from the SJCK to another school, by the Ministry of Education, turned up, escorted by her mother for classes. The following day, the teachers all reported sick. On September 25, school resumed with some degree of normalcy.

The Friday before, Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle had issued an ex-parte order that the child be allowed to return to school until the matter was settled.

Jomo Thomas, lawyer for student’s parent, told SEARCHLIGHT in an interview on September 22 that the situation arose following an incident which had taken place earlier this year when the student wrote a comment considered to be very disrespectful about a teacher on work which had been submitted for assessment.

“There was an incident back in March, and the child was disciplined; she was suspended for two days, and the child did an exam and got a zero for the exam.

“There were meetings: the parent, the child, the school officials, the parent, the child, the Ministry of Education officials, after which, the child returned to school all of the third term without incident. And then at the end of the term, the child selected the kind of classes she wanted; she selected science courses and she was placed in the science bracket,” Thomas said.

“She had properly done her work sufficiently to be promoted, and she got a report card that said she was promoted to form 4S, and she was also given a letter, which was not addressed to her or her mother; it was addressed to the principal of another school and the letter said that the child was transferred to his school, and the child, because of the report card, which said that she should report to Form 4S, showed up at the school at the beginning of the term and they refused to let her in.”

Thomas said the parent came to him, and the matter was filed for judicial review, and on Friday, September 20, the court ordered that the student should return to school with immediate effect, until the final determination of the matter.

The lawsuit filed by the student’s parent has been brought against Balcombe, the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown, the Ministry of Education, Chief Education Officer Lou-anne Gilchrist, and Senior Education Officer with responsibility for secondary schools Asfo Stephens.

The impasse between the school and the parent of the child has drawn a significant amount of media attention. The Association of Principals of Secondary Schools and the parent teachers’ association of the SJCK have both expressed solidarity with Balcombe and the teachers of the school.

The matter was called up for hearing last Friday before Justice Wesley James, who adjourned the matter to November. However, following that ruling, the Attorney General Judith Jones Morgan filed an injuction, which saw the matter being heard before Justice Gertel Thom yesterday. Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle has recused himself from the matter as his wife, a lawyer, is one of the school’s legal representatives and a member of the school board. (DD)