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Sunday 21 July 2019
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Education Ministry says it’s not anti-pan

THE Ministry of Education said yesterday it is not against pan, as is being argued after the Old Tech Steel Orchestra failed to meet the January 12 deadline to relocate from the San Fernando West Secondary School.

The band’s equipment was removed from the music room and placed at the back of the school on Monday, raising the ire of its leader and arranger Sean Ramsey.

He denounced the move to “kick out pan from the school” and accused the principal of being anti-pan.

Education Minister Anthony Garcia said the ministry continues to invest heavily in the national instrument through initiatives employed by its Multi-Cultural Music Programme Unit. He said it also continues to collaborate with the Pan in Schools Committee, as well as host the National Schools Panorama Competition and similar cultural initiatives, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

In a release yesterday, the ministry said one of the main reasons for severing ties with Ramsey’s privately-owned band was space constraints at the Farah Street, San Fernando school, as it is preparing for an intake of Form One students after the Secondary Entrance Assessment exam in May.

In the statement, the ministry’s senior communications officer Visham Ramsaywak said the space constraint arose after a fire destroyed 15 classrooms in 2008. A prefabricated structure was later built to accommodate seven classrooms, so space allocated for the guidance office and local school board had to be used as classrooms.

The ministry revealed correspondence dating back to 2013 when it decided to sever links with Ramsey, whose band has been based at the school since 1994. Even after the fire, the band, which originally started as a school band but later developed into a private entity, was allowed space to store equipment and practise for its many events.

During that period, the principal also expressed to Ramsey concerns about vandalism, indiscipline and the non-supervision of people at the school after hours for practise sessions.

In February 2013, Pan Trinbago officials, Ramsey and the principal met and it was decided to terminate the school’s relationship with the band, which was asked to remove its pans and other equipment with proper documentation, the statement read.

Another meeting was convened on August 22, 2014, and a deadline of mid-October that year was agreed upon by both parties.

However, by letter dated January 27, 2015, attorney Ernest H Koylass and Co asked the the principal for the band to be given until July 15, 2015 to relocate, saying it had been unable to find an alternative site.

The ministry responded to Koylass’ letter on December 27, 2017, saying it could not accede to his client’s request for a further six months and gave the band until January 12 this year to move.

Ramsey said Hatters Steel Orchestra came to the band’s rescue last year and gave it space to store some of its equipment and practise for the Point Fortin Borough Day pan-on-the-move competition in May.

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