An investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated by a teacher at The Bishops’ High School has now been handed over to police.
This is according to information released by the Ministry of Education yesterday. In a statement it was revealed that “the Ministry of Education’s Welfare Department in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protection concluded its investigation and handed the matter over to the Guyana Police Force.”
Economics teacher of The Bishops’ High School, Mr. Coen Jackson, was accused of grooming several female students ahead of assuming sexual relationships with them. The allegations had taken Social Media by storm earlier this week after it was publicised on Facebook by Cultural Policy Advisor within the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Mr. Ruel Johnson.
Johnson, who has claimed to have accounts from several students of Jackson’s actions, had inked a letter of complaint to Chief Education Officer [CEO], Mr. Marcel Hutson.
In Johnson’s letter, which was also copied to the Ministries of Public Health, Social Protection, Legal Affairs, Public Security and Social Cohesion, it was alleged that the teacher’s action might have started as far back as the late 1990s.
Johnson in his letter claimed that he had brought the situation to the attention of the CEO some five months prior. His move to publicise the letter on Facebook recently had triggered massive outcry from members of the public, some of whom had even engaged protest action calling for Jackson to be terminated forthwith.
Jackson, in retaliation, had secured legal representation and insisted at a press conference that the allegations levelled against him were inaccurate. In fact, he had pointed accusing fingers at Johnson instead. Jackson had told a press conference that Johnson was out to ‘destroy’ him if he had failed to sever ties with a mutual friend [a former student of The Bishops’ High].
Also attracting protest this week was the response of Head Teacher of the school, Ms. Winifred Ellis. Ellis was recorded during a school assembly [after Johnson’s allegations became public] accusing some of the female students of the school of being “slack” and “loose”.
A committee which was formulated to investigate the allegations, met with Minister of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry, yesterday to share their findings.
The team comprised CEO Hutson (the Chief and final arbiter); Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Education – Ms. Kelly-Ann Payne-Hercules; Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU] Representative Mr. Lance Baptiste; President of The Bishops’ High School Board Mrs. Ruth Lee; President of The Bishops’ High School Parent Teacher Association (PTA) – Mrs. Sondra Lowe; National PTA Coordinator- Ms. Nadia Hollingsworth; Coordinator of Health and Family Life Education, Ms. Coleen King-Cameron and the two Head Prefects of The Bishops’ High School.
The Committee was tasked with listening to a recording of the Head Teacher during the address to the students. Although Ellis was granted the opportunity to give an explanation, based on the evidence of the investigation, the committee found that she was culpable of breaching the regulations under the Education Act 39:01 section 35 “Inappropriate behaviour by teachers in school” which is liable to a first warning.
It was therefore recommended that she [Ellis] be reprimanded and offer an apology to the students and teachers of the school.
Coming out from the investigation, too, was the need for the Ministry of Education to provide training and support to teachers on how to deal with children on sexual issues. Added to this, the Ministry is also expected to provide counselling support which was requested by the students.
Senior students of The Bishops’ High had on Wednesday held a forum at the school where they delivered several presentations. In the audience were members of the school’s Board of Governors, representatives of the GTU and the PTA.
In attendance was GTU President, Mr. Mark Lyte, who noted that “They [students] shared how this episode has affected them in several ways. When you listen to the presentations it helped you to realise how much it impacted them, how demoralising the whole situation has been.”
He added, “The union is of course disappointed that something of this nature would have been ventilated on Social Media. This was not the appropriate avenue, because it impacted the lives of many students who have since been berated by the public.”
He had also noted that while due process must be had in the matter, should Jackson be found guilty, he should be made to face the full brunt of the law.
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