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Head teacher to seek legal advice on circular issued by Ministry

Head teacher to seek legal advice on circular issued by Ministry


Head teacher of the Gomea Methodist School Oswald Robinson said on Monday that neither he, nor the school he heads, was involved in a school fair held on Monday, May 16.

Robinson’s comment came in the wake of a circular issued earlier this week, in which chief education officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist{{more}} said a head teacher “blatantly disregarded” the Ministry’s instructions to suspend all school fairs because of a number of concerns.

Gilchrist, in a letter dated May 20 and sent to the heads of all educational institutions on May 23 by email, stated that because one of the “primordial responsibilities” of the Ministry is to provide “a safe and nurturing environment for our students and personnel at school and during all school related events,” they wished to advise that “with immediate effect, and until further notice,” permission would not be granted for school fairs involving DJs and loud music; field trips to picnic sites close to the sea or rivers; and “boat rides for fundraising or simple leisure.”

The letter noted that although it is not expected that alcoholic beverages will be sold at any school related event, the Ministry has learned that this sometimes happens and “this practice must stop”. Gilchrist also noted that the Ministry has never “endorsed or granted permission for bathing in rivers or the sea.”

The letter also thanked those head teachers who had adhered to the instruction to cancel their school fairs and beach outings and claimed that one head teacher had disregarded the instructions of the Ministry and police and held a school fair on May 16.

“We sincerely trust that no other head teacher will blatantly disregard the instructions of the Ministry of Education and the constabulary, act ultra vires and proceed to host a school fair as was done on Monday, May 16th, 2016. In the interest of the safety and well-being of our students and related personnel, we appreciate your cooperation.”

The school fair that Gilchrist may have been referring to is the May 16 fair which was held on the hard court next to the Gomea Methodist School.

But according to head teacher of that school Oswald Robinson, the event on the hard court was hosted by the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of the school and not the school itself.

“I have never had a fair at the Gomea Methodist School. There are some people outside in the community who had an event on the 16th at the hard court; it had nothing to do with the school,” said Robinson on Monday, from the school compound in Gomea.

He added, “…actually, they started out by planning for the school, but the Ministry cancelled it and the PTA is an autonomous body; it is an association of parents and teachers and if some parents want to go ahead and do what they have to do, that’s their business, it is not the school.”

The head teacher stressed that the PTA has its own bank account, which is managed by a treasurer.

“That’s not managed by the principal; if the PTA wants to buy something for the school or donate something to the school, they can do it; but if a group of parents want to have an activity in the community, that’s not under the jurisdiction of the Ministry, that’s a community thing; they not doing it under the name of the school,” stressed Robinson, who noted that the hard court on which the event was held is managed by the National Sports Council.

“… So the people went to the Sports Council and got their permission to do the fair. I am not part of it,” Robinson further stressed.

The head teacher said that parents are often asked to contribute to the school and as a result, parents must be allowed to make their contribution if they want to.

“…you can’t say parents must get involved in the life and development of the school, then try to prevent them from doing what they supposed to do,” said Robinson, who stated that he did not know about the May 20 correspondence issued by Gilchrist until alerted to its existence by SEARCHLIGHT.

“How could a principal ignore something if the release is coming after the event?” asked Robinson.

He added, “If the school is having an event, then you can cancel the school event, but if the school is not connected to an event, how could you blame the school? You can’t blame me for something I have no connection with. If you try to label me, it is a matter for the court. I would consult my lawyer on that. I didn’t have a fair; I was not involved in a fair,” insisted Robinson on Monday.

According to the circular, the violent actions and tragic incidents which have occurred recently at school related events and outings are cause for great concern.

“One of the most recent incidents occurred on the compound of a school during a school fair. A young police officer lost his life at this event which was designed to provide an avenue for students and parents to enjoy themselves in a festive environment,” said Gilchrist in the letter.

The incident alluded to is the May 2 stabbing death of police officer 602 Giovanni Charles at a fair held at the Belmont Primary School.

Gilchrist noted in the statement that the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation and Ecclesiastical Affairs will continue to work with the office of the Commissioner of Police to ensure that full compliance is gained.

Robinson said school fairs are not only about raising funds, but are also a means of socializing, bringing parents and children together.

“…some people use [them] for fund-raising, but it is not every fair you would have what you call loud music. I guess it is implied that they are talking about certain types of music, but you can have a fair and have gospel music. It is the same as if a church has an activity.”

Robinson said that while security at a fair is important, it is also costly, as the type of security required is not free and is provided by the police a cost.

He noted that schools must come up with ways of getting the supplies they need, as the Ministry of Education cannot provide it all.

“A school gets supplies every term, but it can never be enough and the schools have to find some way of raising funds. Every event you try, there is a challenge given the state of the economy and you cannot get the supplies that you may need or want; every little you have you have to manage it. When you run out, if they don’t have in stock you have to find a means of getting it,” said Robinson.