The mother of the 14-year-old student at the centre of the “wrapper controversy” at Springer Memorial School is taking matters into her own hands as she attempts to find a satisfactory solution to the eight-week long dispute.
Although she has referred the issue to her attorney, Elecia Weekes today revealed plans to stage a quiet protest this weekend, complaining she had not had justice from the Ministry of Education.
Having previously indicated a desire to have the child transferred to a school of her choice, Weekes now seems to suggest that the best outcome is an amicable resolution to the row with Springer.
Chief Education Officer Karen Best was yesterday quoted in a Barbados Government Information Service (BGI) release as saying the student had been transferred to Ellerslie Secondary School.
However, Weekes has rejected the transfer, and today she justified her decision, telling Barbados TODAY there were disadvantages to Ellerslie, including added costs she could ill-afford.
“What a lot of people fail to understand, Springer is a sixth form school and Ellerslie is a fifth form [school]. So although you have disadvantaged my child already, you want to disadvantage her more.
“People are not looking at the fact that September gone I have spent money on new uniforms, petty fees and school books and I am unemployed. To have to find money now for a new school is ridiculous and nobody is looking at this,” she explained.
The new development came as prominent lawyer Robert “Bobby” Clarke charged that those responsible for keeping the child out of school were committing an illegal act.
Clarke seemed to suggest that the school and the Ministry were culpable.
“It is illegal that this child is not in school. The Ministry of Education is there to ensure that the child is there to go to school. This child should be in school. Why has she been kept away from classes for so long?” Clarke told Barbados TODAY.
The child’s mother has said that her lawyer’s many attempts to have a meeting with Ministry of Education officials have been ignored.
However, Clarke argued that the lawyer needed to be more aggressive.
“Why wasn’t the lawyer involved in that process? If the lawyer was an effective lawyer he would get the meeting or he would advise [Weekes] ‘let us go down to the Ministry and sit down and wait’ and the minister would have to come out and talk to her. They have to be more aggressive than what they are doing now,” Clarke said.
“And the school’s board of management should intervene. She should let her lawyer write a letter urgently to the board. You got to get the board involved urgently,” he insisted.
In the BGIS press release issued yesterday, the Chief Education Officer was quoted as saying the ministry had done its due diligence and had transferred the teenager to Ellerslie because it was one of the schools she had chosen ahead of the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination.
However, Clarke doubted there was due diligence and urged Weekes’ lawyer to demand an explanation.
“I think that it is wrong. I think that the matter could have been settled the same very day with a proper discussion between the mother, the child, the teacher, the head and the board. It shouldn’t have allowed to get this far. And then it went into secrecy because they went and had these meetings behind the mother’s back. The child was not represented at that meeting and she is entitled to representation.
“Due diligence means that they had a meeting and agreed the child should be transferred to Ellerslie. How could you have a meeting to determine a transfer without the child and the mother or the lawyer there to question what they are discussing?”
Meantime, in a press release issued late this evening, the Clement Payne Movement placed the onus strictly on Minister of Education Ronald Jones to end the dispute, which has kept the student from classes for eight weeks.
Quoting Section 25 of the Education Act, the organization’s president David Comissiong argued that the Ministry of Education could not transfer the child without the parents’ consent.
“In light of the fact that this child had sat the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination; had obtained the qualifying mark for admission to Springer Memorial
School; and had been admitted to Springer Memorial, she can only be transferred away from Springer Memorial to another public secondary school if her parents had applied for such a transfer. The Ministry of Education cannot unilaterally impose such a transfer on the child! The child’s parents would have to first request such a transfer,” Comissiong contended.
When all was said and done, he stated, the ultimate responsibility for the “debacle” rested “not with the child; nor with the Principal of Springer Memorial; nor with the mother of the child” but with Jones.
He maintained that it should have been clear that “all too familiar human emotions and egos” got in the way of both the principal and the mother, making it difficult for them to communicate with each other or to come to a “rational” resolution of the matter in the child’s best interest.
“And this is where the Minister of Education– in his capacity as one of the highest representatives of the people of Barbados, and a presumed repository of ministerial power, discretion, judgement and responsibility – was required to exercise leadership, and to intervene in a mature, balanced, responsible and humane manner to help resolve the matter in the best interest of the minor child. This, Mr Jones spectacularly failed to do,” Comissiong charged.
He concluded that it was tragic that the teenager “has been made to suffer” as a result of the failings of adults who should have known and done better.