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SVGTU says it stands firmly behind GHS Headmistress

SVGTU says it stands firmly behind GHS Headmistress


The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) is standing firmly behind the Headmistress of the Girls’ High School (GHS) in relation to the school’s policy on cellular phones.{{more}}

The Union’s position was articulated to SEARCHLIGHT by its acting President Ronald Clarke in an interview yesterday. Clarke said, prior to last Friday evening, he was unwilling to give his personal opinion on the matter, as it had not yet been discussed with the Executive.

However, at a meeting of the executive of the SVGTU on Friday, July 15, Clarke said the issue of the daughter of the Prime Minister being awarded zero in one paper of an exam, after her cellular phone rang in an examination room at the GHS, was raised and discussed.

“The SVGTU stands firm behind the principal of the Girls’ High School. We have taken this position because we have to ensure that our students understand that rules have to be kept, and although people say sometimes things happen accidentally, even in those circumstances, we have to live with the consequences of our actions,” Clarke said.

“It is also a larger issue than just the school. We have to take into consideration the fact that at CXC, there are some very strict measures pertaining to cell phones in examination rooms. Given that, what the Girls’ High School has done, is to help students to start developing that habit of not taking cell phones to class, because it could have serious repercussions.”

Clarke said the Union believes that what the GHS is doing is “really a step in the right direction in helping students to start develop that whole approach early.”

The Union president, however, also had a word of praise for the Prime Minister. “The Prime Minister did say he wants the zero to stand. For me, personally, I am glad that he would have taken that position, as in our school system, we cannot have it appear as if the law is for some, and not for others. We have to always, at all times, show to the general public and to our students, that the law is for everybody. I must compliment the Prime Minister, in a way, for at least taking that position.”

Clarke said, had this position not been taken, there could have been far-reaching consequences in the education system, as teachers could have found themselves in a situation where their students develop scant regard for the Law.

“They would tell themselves if some persons can do it and get away with it, why can’t we?”

“We don’t ever want to send that kind of message across to neither our students nor the general public,” Clarke said.

Although expressing the view that the whole GHS cell phone issue had already been well ventilated, Clarke said he is glad that public awareness about the rule pertaining to cell phones in CXC exams has been heightened.

“Some persons might not have even been aware, or may have forgotten about the CXC position as it relates to cell phones…. All students and parents are now aware of it. This is a positive that has come out of the whole scenario. It is unfortunate that it took a controversial issue to highlight it, but in the end, it is a good thing that it was highlighted.”

On June 15, 2011, while a teacher at the GHS was distributing examination papers in a fourth form classroom, the cell phone of the Prime Minister’s daughter rang. In keeping with school rules, the phone was confiscated and the student received zero on that paper. About two weeks later, the Chief Education Officer issued a directive to the Headmistress of the school to rescind that decision and instead deduct 10 per cent from the child’s paper. The Headmistress refused to carry out the directive, causing much public debate. The Prime Minister at a press conference on July 7 said he only enquired of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education what was the rule at the GHS and gave no instructions nor offered any guidance to Ministry officials.