In an unprecedented move, the Ministry of Education has issued a public apology to the Grenada Union of Teachers on the fallout over the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School (GBSS) furniture issue.
The ministry, headed by senior government minister, Anthony Boatswain, had slammed the Principal of GBSS, Phillip Thomas for putting out a public statement calling on parents to pay $250. 00 for the desk and chair for their children to sit in the classroom.
The decision was reportedly taken in the face of a shortage of school furniture in the school system.
The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) stepped in and defended the action of Thomas and called on the ministry to retract its statement on the issue.
The union also staged a one-day strike action and warned that it would ask school principals and teachers to suspend all fund-raising activities for school purposes with effect from September.
As part of a brokered deal to get the GUT to pull back on the proposed plan of action, the Ministry of Education agreed to issue a public apology to the GBSS Principal on the furniture issue.
Following is the text of a release in which the apology was made:
The Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development and the Environment and the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) have arrived at a resolution, following the week-long tension, regarding the GBSS furniture matter.
A high-level delegation, including the Education Minister, Hon. Anthony Boatswain; Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Sen. Simon Stiell; Permanent Secretary Aaron Francois, Chief Education Officer, Elvis Morain; the GUT President General, Lydon Lewis; Vice President of GUT Finley Jeffrey; other executive members of the GUT and Dominic Jeremiah – Chairman of the Grenada Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, met during the morning of June 2, 2017.
The meeting came one day following protest action by the GUT, on June 1, when teachers in the State of Grenada remained at home, in what was referred to as a day of rest and reflection.
At that meeting the Ministry’s team admitted and recognised that there is a longstanding arrangement in our schools where principals, teachers and the communities work together to help raise funds to support our schools and that its press release issued in response to the news release on the letter, issued by the Principal of the GBSS to parents, did not reflect that understanding.
As a result, The Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development & the Environment wishes to apologise to the Principal and Staff of the GBSS for the tone of that press release and to retract the relevant statements of that said press release, which did not convey that understanding.
The Ministry stated that it is a well-known fact that all our principals, teachers, parents and members of the wider school communities are continually making significant sacrifices and contributions toward helping with the upkeep of our schools, since Government’s limited resources do not allow it to do it alone.
Both parties agreed that the intent of the GBSS Principal was a noble one, which was intended to help improve the furniture situation at the school, to help our students, and that effort to raise funds to help solve the furniture situation of the school should be supported by parents and others.
At the meeting, it was further agreed that the escalation of tension around the matter, including the call by the GUT President General for a one-year freeze on schools’ fund-raising activities, will only hurt our students.
The Ministry therefore asked the GUT, in the interest of resolving this matter and in keeping with the spirit of the meeting, to withdraw that call, since this will harm our students more than anyone else.
The Ministry assured the GUT that there was no consideration on its part to take disciplinary action against the GBSS Principal, related to the furniture issue, and that any such information circulating in the public, regarding the matter, was untrue.
In closing, the Ministry reiterated its commitment to continue to work with all its principals, teachers, parents and support groups, including corporate bodies, to continue to help improve the learning environment in our schools.
The GUT expressed its appreciation for the meeting, in particular, the Ministry’s honesty in the matter, and indicated its willingness to consider withdrawing the call for the one-year freeze on school fundraising activities