Jun 12, 2009 News
Parents of children attending the East La Penitence Primary School yesterday halted activities at the institution by locking the gates to press for the removal of two students whose father reportedly threatened the lives of the teachers.
The parents prevented access to the school to both teachers and students by locking the gates and are calling on the Minister of Education to intervene in the matter since they are not satisfied with the manner the situation is being dealt with by another senior official from the Ministry.
Diana Grimes, President of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), told the media yesterday that they would not stop their protest action until their demands are met, since it is as if the Ministry is taking the safety of the teachers and students lightly.
Explaining the genesis of the problem that has led to their concerns, Grimes said that on Friday last, a male parent of two children attending the school entered the compound and threatened the headmistress and teachers.
This newspaper understands that the parent’s children had attended a church-feeding programme supported by the school without his consent and he accused the teachers of inviting them.
Coretta McDonald, General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), told the media that the parent’s behaviour was quite frightening.
“Even if the parent was upset there was a different way to deal with the issue. He abused the HM. He threatened that he would shoot. As a matter of fact, he said he has police friends and so nobody can do him anything,” McDonald told the media. A complaint was lodged with the Ministry of Education and it was not until Wednesday that an official from the Ministry visited the school.
According to Grimes, the official contacted the parent and the man subsequently turned up at the school.
“He did not adhere to our dress code; he came with a vest. The official only want the man to talk; the teachers must not say anything,” the PTA head stated.
She explained that the man even admitted to the Ministry official that he is involved in drugs and that he had the police ‘covered’.
The PTA said that its members were expecting the Ministry official to settle the matter amicably on Wednesday but this was not the case.
“All we want is the children transferred from the school…the parents are not safe with the man’s children in the school,” Grimes told the media. It was reported that Wednesday’s meeting with the Ministry official, teachers and the PTA, ended abruptly when media personnel and the police turned up at the school. The PTA Head accused the Ministry official of being abusive to one of the teachers during the meeting.
“She told her (teacher) she has demons and she is a liar. So we have come to a decision, that we are not opening the school gate. The PTA and the parents, we are going to keep this gate locked until the Minister of Education comes into the office and sign a transfer so that those two children will leave the school and have no further problems with the parents.
“No school will be going on here until we get a solution to this problem because we are not safe,” the PTA President stated.
Other parents claimed that their children would sometimes have to run and hide whenever they see the parent in question visits the school.
“We don’t know if a child may have a problem with his children whether he’s going to come in again and threaten to shoot out. We don’t want that,” Grimes said.
Yesterday, ranks of the Guyana Police Force visited the school after receiving reports that there was a disturbance there. However, they left after they found that the situation was not out of hand. They later arrested the parent in question.
According to Grimes, the incident in question is just one of the many problems being experienced by the school.
Male members of the public would be seen entering the school compound at will to use the lavatory, she said.
According to GTU General Secretary, Coretta McDonald, who is also a teacher at the school, the parents are concerned about their children’s safety hence the action they have taken.
“We’re here prepared for work and we are not being allowed to go into the compound because parents have locked the gate,” McDonald said.
“We’re saying that we don’t want the children (of the abusive parent) at the school any longer, because if the parent is going to behave like this for a minor issue, then if a teacher is to discipline his child then it might be a different story,” McDonald added.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Shaik Baksh told a press conference that the Principal Education Officer (Primary) met with the teachers and the matter is under investigation.
A report is to be submitted to the Chief Education Officer.
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