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PM: Let her keep her zero

PM: Let her keep her zero

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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has stated that a telephone call he made to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education was not in an effort to have his daughter’s examination grade changed.{{more}}

Dr. Gonsalves, removing his cap as the nation’s leader and replacing it with that of a parent, said that he was merely questioning the validity of the policy that caused his daughter Soleil, a fourth form student of the Girls’ High School, to receive a zero grade on one paper of her mathematics exam, after her cell phone rang in the examination room.

Gonsalves was speaking at a press conference on Thursday, July 7 at Cabinet Room.

According to GHS rules, students found with cell phones in classrooms during examinations would have the device confiscated and would receive zero for the paper being written.

“I know the Girls’ High School has a zero tolerance policy on cell phones in school. My immediate and instinctive reaction to Soleil was to tell her I have no sympathy for your position,” Gonsalves said.

After some reflection, the Prime Minister said that he chose to call Permanent Secretary Nicole Bonadie Baker, as one parent seeking clarity from an education official.

“I said to her, I have a query: are there sanctioned rules concerning internal examinations at the Girls’ High School or other secondary schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines?”

“She told me that she was not sure, but that she would find out.”

The Prime Minister said he has since found out that the GHS has internal rules which have not been sanctioned by the Ministry of Education.

“I am not saying this is the Girls’ High School’s fault or the Ministry’s fault. I have not seen these rules in relation to the exams.”

While he did not go into the specific procedure for having school rules sanctioned by the Ministry, the Prime Minister said some rules could be delegated to the school, while others, like examination rules, should be sanctioned by the Ministry of Education.

“I can understand how the Girls’ High School had rules which were not sanctioned by the Ministry and they were applying them. But those rules must be known to the students and to the parents.”

The Prime Minister said neither he nor his wife knew of the rule. He said he understood the rule had been discussed at Parent Teacher meetings, but not everyone attends all the meetings.

He said he was told that the exam rules were given to the students, but “It is conceivable that they were given to the students when Soleil was not there. Because I am sure if they were given to Soleil, she would have brought them home and showed them to us.”

The prime minister explained that his daughter has been absent from school for some days as she sometimes travels with him and his wife, as his children’s education “involves formal instruction and informal learning”.

The Prime Minister disclosed that after his call to the Permanent Secretary, he received a call from Chief Education Officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist, who informed him that she would be dealing with the issue.

Gilchrist then issued a written directive to GHS Headmistress Andrea Bowman, instructing her to rescind the zero grade, and instead deduct ten per cent from the student’s paper.

This, according to Dr. Gonsalves was not his intention.

‘I didn’t want to remove any nought from my daughter’s exam you know… I just wanted to know as a parent what are the rules.”

“I don’t know if there is other guidance in other places, where there are other internal examinations in other countries, whether she (Gilchrist) has read, any model to guide her…. I am hoping that in the circumstances, that such a request as you have mentioned, be not followed through, because clearly, if you were to deduct … ten per cent, suppose you have three, four cases, five cases, in the past, you can’t go now and deduct the ten percent where those persons had received zero because those exam reports have already been written up…. So that’s there, it is not practical; so just let it be. Let her keep her zero… Rules must have consistency…. You can’t just change it now, even though the rule was unsanctioned…,” the Prime Minister said.

“Let me say this now both as parent and as Prime Minister; I have the utmost confidence in Mrs. Bowman as Headmistress of the Girls’ High School.”

“I don’t consider that Mrs. Bowman to have done anything to be considered for discipline or anything like that…. let me put these matters to rest,” the Prime Minister added.

Officials at the Ministry of Education were not available to comment on the matter when we tried to reach them yesterday.

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