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Ministry of Education not in control of management of SJCK – PM Gonsalves

Ministry of Education not in control of management of SJCK – PM Gonsalves

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As far as the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown is concerned, the child at the centre of a legal dispute involving the school is not recognized as a student of the institution.{{more}}

President of the school’s PTA Junior Bacchus told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that the parents present at a PTA meeting at the school, last Thursday, were unanimously supportive of the actions of principal and teachers.

“The PTA is of the view that the principles of the school must be maintained; that is equality for all children. There shouldn’t be a standard for this young lady and another standard for other children.

“They support the notion that all children should be treated with equality and ill-discipline should not be tolerated, and that we should adhere to the principles as outlined in terms of the rules of the school.

“This child had been disciplined in keeping with the rules of the school, as far as we are concerned. The rules require for certain actions to be taken, the school followed the rules, and we are maintaining our position to give support to the teachers in imposing disciplinary action.

“As far as we are concerned, the child is not a student of the St Joseph’s Convent; she was officially transferred by the Ministry of Education.”

Senior officials of the Ministry of Education, along with the school’s principal Calma Balcombe, have had a lawsuit brought against them by the girl’s mother.

Bacchus said that the PTA recommended that the Attorney General file an injunction to stop the order of the court, which said the child should be returned to school until the matter is settled.

This was done, and the matter is set to be heard this Friday, by Justice Wesley James, and not by Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle, who gave the original order that the child be sent back to the school.

Bruce-Lyle recused himself from the case, because his wife, a lawyer, is one of the school’s legal representatives.

When the child, escorted by her mother, turned up for class on September 23, the teachers walked off the compound in protest.

The following day, they called in sick.

On Wednesday, school resumed with some normalcy.

The prinicpal has received support from the local secondary schools prinicpals’ association, which issued a press release last week, and a number of parents who spoke to SEARCHLIGHT.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that the child’s parent did not attend last week’s PTA meeting, and that the child has since been transferred from form 4S to 4C.

Commenting on the matter during a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves stressed that the welfare of the child concerned must take precedence.

He said that the Ministry of Education fulfilled its obligation of providing a new school for the child; its role in this case was not to decide whether the child should remain in school or not.

“Nothing which any of us says must in any way get ourselves from the principal consideration: the paramount interest and welfare of the child.

“The Ministry of Education is not in control of the management of St Joseph’s Convent, we assist the school. There is a protocol with the assisted schools, but the determination as to whether a child should remain in a school is not a determination of a Ministry, but clearly the Ministry has an obligation to provide a school for a child, if a school for whatever reason says we don’t want to have this child.”

The Prime Minister said that the school did the correct thing by abiding by the order of the court, but this does not take away from the democratic rights of the teachers to express their opinion.

“I can’t comment on the rights or wrongs on any part in this matter, because there is an adjudication to be made by the judiciary…. Sometimes when conflicts arise, we have to allow the institutions which we have set up as a civilised people to resolve the conflicts,” Gonsalves said. (JJ)

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