ALTHOUGH Government has allocated $20 million in stipends for Standard Five teachers to go out to school during their vacation, to prepare students for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination, teachers at a school in Princes Town are asking parents to pay $100 per student per session of what is being deemed, "additional lessons."
This is not sitting well with parents who are calling on the TT Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) and the Education Ministry to intervene.
"We are not supporting this. The ministry should get involved and do something about it. They are already being paid to come out to help prepare our children. This additional fee is unfair to us parents. One of the messages we received from the teacher said the fee was for reinforcement lessons to refresh pupils on the curriculum," said a parent who asked not to be identified for fear that her child could be victimised.
"The fee for the day is $100 and lessons are right up until the exams, keeping in mind it is at the Princes Town Presbyterian Primary No. 1 school," the parent said. The school, located at Gopaul By-Pass Road in Craignish Village, is expected to be sanitised this week. The SEA exam is set for August 20.
About two weeks ago, Education Minister Anthony Garcia announced that effective July 20, teachers and principals will be called out to prepare students for the exam. Teachers are scheduled to work normal school hours – 8.30 am to 3 pm.
TTUTA is opposed to teachers being called out from their vacation.
In WhatsApp messages on Sunday, a teacher is said to have informed parents of the decision (to have reinforcement lessons). The teacher proposed two classes – one from 8 am to midday, and the other from 12:30 pm to 4.30 pm from Monday to Friday.
Another option – from 8.30 am to 3 pm either on Wednesdays and Fridays, or Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The messages stated, "Happy Father’s Day to all dads and moms who play both parts. Lessons will begin on Monday 29th. To date, there are 19 confirmed pupils. Miss (name called) will be having classes too. We are limiting the numbers to 25."
The teacher sought to assure that proper covid19 protocols will be observed.
Students were encouraged to walk with hand sanitisers, masks and a notebook. They were also told to indicate their interest soon as there was only room left for five more students. Newsday was told that the ministry has a policy which states that private, for-pay lessons are not to be held on any school compound.
Calls on Tuesday to the school's principal, Ruth Ramrattan-Hosein, went unanswered.
Chairman of the Presbyterian Primary Schools' Board of Education, Rev Brenda Bullock, when contacted by Newsday, said she was unaware of the issue and must first speak with officials of the school before commenting.
"We had a meeting today and nothing like that came up. I don’t know about those complaints. We follow the guidelines of the ministry.
"I do know that in preparation for the SEA, all cleaners are out sanitising making sure everything is ready."
TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas was also contacted on Tuesday and said she was unaware of the issue and opted to comment at a later date.
"This is the first time I am hearing about it. I do not comment on a situation unless I do an investigation on it and get information from a representative."
The school, previously at Edward Street, was declared unfit for occupation in 2015 and was later demolished. Since then, parents and PTA members have been staging multiple protests calling for the school to be rebuilt as early as possible. It is housed at the Princes Town Presbyterian No 2 Primary School and both operate on a shift system. Parents who spoke with Newsday said they are unsure if parents of the No. 2 school also got the messages about extra lessons. Calls to Education Minister Anthony Garcia on Tuesday went unanswered.