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GHS refuses to reverse disciplinary measure

GHS refuses to reverse disciplinary measure


The faculty of the St. Vincent Girls’ High School is bracing itself for a backlash, following the refusal by the school’s Headmistress to carry out a directive of the Ministry of Education.{{more}}

This comes after the daughter of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was given a mark of zero, for a breach of school rules during an examination, and Headmistress Andrea Bowman refusing to rescind that action, when she was directed to.

Some staff members of the all-girls school, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in May this year, have vowed to take protest action if further pressure is brought to bear on the institution to reverse the disciplinary measure.

The situation unfolded on Wednesday June 15, when, according to reports reaching SEARCHLIGHT, the ringing of a cell phone was heard coming from the vicinity of one student, as a teacher was distributing test papers for an end of year exam.

SEARCHLIGHT also understands that when approached, the daughter of the Prime Minister admitted that the ringing device belonged to her. The phone was confiscated by school officials, and in keeping with the school rules, the student received a zero mark on that paper.

One week later, Chief Education Officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist issued a directive in writing to Bowman, that the decision to award a zero grade be rescinded, and that only ten per cent should be deducted from that student’s paper and in all other cases.

According to a source, the Headmistress has not yet carried out these instructions. Staff members at the school, situated at Richmond Hill, Kingstown, have indicated that they have pledged full support for their Headmistress, and have offered to march in a show of solidarity if it becomes necessary.

When contacted by SEARCHLIGHT this week, Bowman indicated that she did not wish to comment on the matter at this time.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that the school’s ‘no cell phone in examination room’ policy is in line with that of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

In an article published on January 28 this year, SEARCHLIGHT disclosed that 31 students writing CXC exams in 2010 had all their results cancelled, after being caught with cell phones in the examination rooms. None of these students was from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

In that January 28 article, Bowman, who is one of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ two representatives on the CXC Council, disclosed that not only are the students’ entire CAPE or CSEC results canceled, but students found in breach cannot retake the exams for the next five years. Additionally, where three students are found breaching the rules at one centre, the entire centre becomes disqualified from examinations.

The Chief Education Officer is this country’s other representative on the Council, which is CXC’s highest decision making body.

In that story earlier this year, Bowman had revealed that a problem with cell phones exists within the GHS. She stated that in the December 2010 end of term examination, 40 first form students out of 136 were caught with cell phones during exams, and had their exam papers canceled.

Bowman stressed in that interview that the school’s zero tolerance policy for cell phones is communicated to the students and parents often. However, despite this, there are instances when cell phones still show up at the school.

She concluded that parents play a pivotal role in helping to curb the problem, adding that their support is greatly desired.

“I just wish we could get the support from the parents and guardians. That’s where I think most of the problems are coming from,” Bowman said then, adding that some parents undermine the school and its rules.

Attempts to reach Chief Education Officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist for a comment on the present situation proved futile, and a message left on her cell phone was not returned up to press time Thursday morning.

However, a memorandum issued in 2003 by then Chief Education Officer Laura Browne, on the topic of cellular phones said: “Students in Primary and Secondary schools are NOT allowed to have cellular phones at school. Any cellular phone found will be confiscated. Phones that are confiscated will be returned on a first offence, to the parent or legal guardian of the student. Phones will not be returned on further offences.”

That memo did not address the issue of cell phones in examination rooms.