Minister of State with responsibility for Education, Senator Simon Stiell has said that the proper procedures were not followed by the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School (GBSS) in asking parents to pay a fee to replace damaged furniture.
The Minister of State was responding to a letter which was sent out by GBSS informing parents that they will have to pay $250 for a desk and chair that will be under the ownership of their child.
The letter, dated May 11th, 2017, stated in part that there was a number of old furniture at the school that needed to be replaced and in light of this “we are adopting a new furniture initiative for the new school year, September 2017”.
It said: “A system of furniture ownership will be implemented at the classroom level. We believe that this initiative will encourage our students to be more responsible and caring for personal and public property.
“The cost of a chair is $125.00. The cost of a desk is $125.00…Your son will own this chair,” it said.
Speaking to reporters at the post-Cabinet Press Briefing held Tuesday at the Ministerial Complex, Sen. Stiell noted that there was no correspondence from the school to the Ministry of Education requesting school furniture.
According to Sen. Stiell, there was no communication from the school to either himself, the Senior Minister of Education, Anthony Boatswain and the Chief Education Officer in the ministry, Elvis Morain with regards to their furniture needs.
He said the GBSS authorities could have even taken the matter to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell “if this matter was of such urgent need…”.
“…The procedure wasn’t followed. The process wasn’t followed, all of those open channels of communication were not sought from at the most senior levels, but what we do (have) is a matter being played out in public on the media,” he said.
He reiterated the ministry’s policy that parents should not be made to pay for school furniture.
“We certainly do not wish to stifle school principals, schools using their initiative to independently fundraise…we are aware of the financial constraints within the ministry.
“We have no objection to those fundraising activities; that has to be done in coordination with the ministry, and we certainly should not be asking parents directly without consultation with the Ministry to pay for furniture.
“So, the policy is abundantly clear – parents are not expected to pay for furniture. It is the Ministry’s responsibility, that is very, very clear and to give the impression otherwise is just false.
Sen. Stiell sought to dispel the notion that the Ministry of Education is not fulfilling its responsibility to the nation’s schools.
“There are those out there who wish to perpetuate this impression that the government is not (fulfilling) its responsibilities with regard to support (for) schools”, he said.
According to Sen. Stiell, within the past four years, the Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration has invested in the region of $100 million in upgrading schools.
“I think 25 schools to date have been upgraded – there are a further six for updates (and) complete rebuilds,” he said.
However, the government minister lamented the fact that there is only so much the ministry can do for the schools and students should be impressed upon about their responsibility to take good care of school property.
“We have a major issue with school books…the school books that would last five years is lasting 1 or 2 years. Can you reasonably expect government using taxpayers’ money (all the time), and if we have issues of vandalism … issues of the mistreatment of school assets, school furniture, school buildings, vandalism of school buildings”, he said.
“…The expectation cannot be government all the time (to do the fixing). Students have a responsibility, parents have a responsibility, teachers and administrators have a responsibility, in addition to the ministry and the administration,” he added.
Sen. Stiell disclosed that the matter of the furniture is currently being sorted out between the Ministry of Education and GBSS, citing that the proper procedures are now being followed by the school.
“I believe the air has been cleared in terms of the Principal of GBSS and the Ministry of Education. The Principal has met, as ought to be the case with senior ministry persons to go through what the policy is; what is expected and so forth.
“The proper procedure is now being followed where the Principal is in direct communication with senior ministry administrators to deal with it (and) both ministers are aware, we are aware.
THE NEW TODAY contacted the GBSS Principal, Phillip Thomas for a comment on the matter and he said that as far as he is concerned it was now a dead issue.