The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) has warned of swift action against the Keith Mitchell-led government if the Ministry of Education moves to victimise the Principal of the Grenada Boys Secondary School (GBSS) over the so-called Furniture Gate issue.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference, GUT President, Lydon Lewis issued a strong warn to the ministry headed by Member of Parliament for St. Patrick West, Anthony Boatswain against such an act against the school principal, Phillip Thomas.
Reports have been circulating in the country that a decision taken by Thomas and the Parent Teachers’ Association to ask parents to pay $250. 00 for desk and chair for their students could cost him his job.
The announcement met with a quick response from the Ministry of Education in which it urged parents to ignore the order and not to pay for the furniture.
Minister of State for Education, Senator Simon Stiell then chided Thomas for not following the proper protocol on the furniture issue.
However, Lewis was firm that government cannot take any action against the GBSS school principal unless he engages in some willful and deliberate actions.
The GUT boss said the union will not stand idly by and watch any unwarranted action against the principal.
“Let me warn the Ministry of Education that this is just the smoke, the fire will be behind if they ever attempt in any form or fashion to interfere with the Principal of the Grenada Boys Secondary School or any other principal through any form or fashion that would speak to victimization”, he said.
“I want to make it categorically clear that the Grenada Union of Teachers would stand firmly or resolutely against all forms of victimisation especially geared towards the Principal of the Grenada Boys Secondary School,” he added.
According to Lewis, the GBSS furniture issue was filled with merit and was not aimed at just getting money from parents.
“The school based on the letter (sent to parents for the $250.00) is asking the students to own the furniture, not to give the school the money or that the school owns whatever they provide but that each child who provides that amount of money and provides that chair, they will own the chair.
“Now what that ownership does, it creates a sense of responsibility that you need to care, that you need to see that it is well preserved and that child based on the letter and my understanding and my dialogue with the GBSS would have options on leaving school on what happens to that piece of furniture.
“…They (the students) can sell it back to a Form One student or they can merrily walk off the gate with their chair. What’s wrong with that? You would have less damage and less broken furniture in the school if every child actually knows that I own this thing and if I don’t have it I can’t sit.
“So, it speaks to the fact that instead of having to hold students responsible for breaking furniture of (the) Ministry of Education, they would break their own and they would have to replace their own.
The Ministry of Education is insisting that the responsibility lies with it to provide furniture for schools islandwide and not the parents.
GUT has accused government of being tardy in living up to its financial obligations to the nation’s schools and most times the principals and teachers are forced to organise fund-raising events to purchase supplies like toilet paper and chalk for the classrooms.
Last week Thursday, schools were forced to close their doors to students as teachers heeded the call of GUT to stage a one-day boycott of the classrooms in protest against statements made on the GBSS Furniture Gate issue by Sen. Stiell and the Ministry of Education.