EDUCATION Minister Dr. Gail Rigobert earlier this week apologised for the fiasco that ensued between her Ministry and parents of students who had chosen the Beanefield Comprehensive Secondary School as their ‘school of choice’ for the new academic year that begins in September.
Rigobert’s apology stemmed from the failure of the Ministry to inform parents — at an early enough time — of government’s decision not to accept students at that school in September.
Some parents were alerted to the government’s decision after filling out their child or children’s choice form and turning it in, while others were informed at the proverbial eleventh hour.
This situation manifested itself during a meeting of parents and Ministry officials two weeks ago at the Vieux Fort Primary School, where it was reported that tempers flared and Ministry officials were called ‘liars’ by parents.
The main reason for the government’s decision, as noted by the Ministry officials at that meeting, had to do with the inability of the school to accommodate additional students.
Parents lambasted the officials and made it clear they would not fill-out another choice form, claiming that the Ministry was grossly disrespectful and pointing to the financial burden they would have to bear to send their child/ward to a secondary school outside the town of Vieux Fort.
Parents further claimed that seeking out another school could have a psychological effect on their children, since they were focussed on attending that particular school.
Another argument presented (by parents) was that of the absence of some subjects at certain schools within the school district.
Minister Rigobert seems to have acquiesced with the parents, offering not just an apology to them but holding out hope as well.
She said, “I bitterly regret the sequence of events.
“I regret that what is now happening should have happened before the parents chose the school as an option for their children.
“I apologise on behalf of my staff that this was not done previously. I beg that you forgive us.”
She also said that the Ministry is working very closely with stakeholders to correct the situation and that after she perused the menu of options available to her, “all parties will be satisfied that the Government of St. Lucia and the Ministry of Education would have served our clientele well.”
The Minister claimed that while in some parts of the country there is excess capacity in some of the secondary schools, especially in the northern districts, that may not be exactly the case for the west and south of the country.
“It was brought to my attention that we were running into a capacity challenge at the Beanefield Secondary School and internally instructions were given to engage with stakeholders so as to determine a way forward given that in its current construct there was no physical space to house incoming form one students.
“Admittedly ,it would appear that things did not happen in the way that they should have and my colleagues know that I preach engage, engage, engage; consult, consult, consult, well before things morphed into a problem.
“I am the leader of the Ministry and I will assume full responsibility for whomever or whichever unit might have dropped the ball in that regard. That is what leaders do,” Rigobert said.
According to her, she has since asked that there be consultation, consultation, consultation and engagement, engagement, engagement with all stakeholders with a view to correcting the situation at Beanefield.
She promised to peruse the options available to her and determine – given the resources available – the best course of action for the students.