The Ministry of Education on Saturday said police would be called in to open school gates if they are locked by protesters and parents would be prosecuted for keeping their children away from school.
“The Ministry of Education is working with the Guyana Police Force to ensure that any school compound that is locked will be opened immediately and those responsible for locking same will be dealt with condignly by the law.
The Ministry will also treat condignly with parents who keep their children away from instruction to be used at protests,” the ministry said in a statement.
The position followed protests at several schools in Georgetown and the interior to force the Education Ministry to intervene to address their grievances including poor accommodation, teacher shortage, poor sanitation and in the case of Mahdia Primary School the dismissal of the Head teacher.
Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) was told that most parents and guardians of Mahdia Primary students boycotted a meeting on Saturday with Chief Education Officer, Olato Sam. Instead, Sam met with teachers and discussed the process that led to the dismissal of the Head teacher. The Chairman of the Parent Teachers Association said residents would attend a meeting only with the Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand.
At the Port Kaituma Secondary School, parents and students closed down the school to demand more teachers.
Residents and the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) are, however, adamant that the Head teacher was not involved in financial improprieties and that he should be reinstated. The matter could be taken to court as early as next week.
The Education Ministry said that “every action must be taken in the interest of the children” and authorities would not tolerate the locking of school gates as a form or part of protests’ the utilisation of school premises as a location of protests; threatening and traumatising teachers, parents and students as a means of forcing their involvement in illegal, unconstitutional activities and the exploitation of children during school hours by utilising them to hold placards, congregating on the roadways, shouting unwholesome slogans etc. “The Ministry of Education strongly denounces the recent actions by some small pockets of persons to disrupt the functioning of schools by illegally protesting and behaving in other unhealthy and unwholesome ways,” the ministry added.
The Education Ministry said that while it recognizes the constitutional right of all persons to demonstrate peacefully and freely, protests should not interfere with public order and/or hinder the rights and freedoms of other persons. Protests, the Ministry added, must be used only as the last option. “Best practice dictates that protest be used as a last resort rather than as the first way to bring attention to a problem, whether real or perceived.”
Parents, guardians, concerned residents and other persons, the Ministry advised, should first seek to resolve their grievances in an organised manner rather than resorting to placards or be perceived as politically antagonistic.
The Education Ministry said there are numerous established ways and means existing to allow for healthy engagements in order to address issues that touch and concern our schools and school children. The first place to begin would be the school’s administration- head teacher, deputy head teacher etc, the local Education Departments, the Ministry of Education, the Chief Education Officer, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and the Minister of Education.
Additionally, the Ministry said it has established hotlines, opened social media e.g. Facebook and Twitter, and soon a website that will allow for persons to engage on issues of concern to them and specifically for persons to lodge complaints and to receive feedback. “Interested and relevant persons have a responsibility to inform themselves of these various means of engaging.”