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Timely, well-said, but… A Response to Christopher Grant

Timely, well-said, but… A Response to  Christopher Grant



I thank Christopher Grant for taking the time to pen his thoughts in the letter entitled “Where do I sign….” published in the May 7, 2019 edition of SEARCHLIGHT Midweek. As he has said, the detrimental consequences of the issues raised are known by all…students, parents, teachers, principals, MoE officials, yet we have this replay every year. Why is this so? Clearly the will to end it is not powerful enough.

In 2004 when I was appointed headmistress of the GHS, I was told that the shirt-signing and its attendant behaviours are “traditional “, therefore I could not end the practice as I had stated that I would. Nevertheless, towards the end of the 2004/05 academic year, no GHS student who hoped to graduate from the school was allowed to sign and wear shirts on or off the compound. Signed shirts could be placed in a bag and taken home as a momento, but they were not to be worn with any aspect of the school uniform. What is more, the students of that year, and every year since then, spent their last day of school on retreat away from the school’s compound dressed in mufti.

To some extent these measures decreased the number of GHS graduands making spectacles of themselves on the streets of Kingstown, but I suspect that a few may have been defiant. Suffice it to say, that as far as I remember, none was ever “caught and reported.” Had this been the case that student would not have been allowed to graduate from the GHS. And I have given you this scenario in order to make the following points:

1. Schools do have the authority to curb these behaviours.

2. Graduation from school, the process and ceremony that parents and students have come to expect, are not entitlements…they are privileges that lie within the jurisdiction of the schools. There have been legal threats to this ‘school privilege ‘, but once the Education Act remains as is, the privilege remains with the school.

3. The certificates of graduation issued by our schools indicate that a student has completed at least five years of secondary schooling WITH SATISFACTION. There is absolutely nothing satisfactory about the end of year display that adorns our streets. Thus these students disqualify themselves from receipt of these certificates. Remember, graduation is the school’s prerogative.

4. “Officials” and partisan political operatives are the biggest hindrances to the correction of these behaviours. With focussed political will, our streets could be clean on the last day of secondary school.

Andrea Bowman.