by Davidson Bowen
Can a principal legitimately withhold books from a student who has paid the fees set out by the Ministry of Education? This was the question posed to Barbados TODAY last Friday by a reader representing a parent whom she claimed had a dispute with the principal of the St. Leonard’s Boys Secondary School, Joseph King.
According to the reader, the parent of a student entering second form paid the fee required by the ministry for participation in the Textbook Loan Scheme as well as the school’s petty fees, but was refused the books when she said she could not pay the newly imposed PTA fee.
“This is not a woman who is pretending. To some people that $15 might not be much, but this is a woman who some days don’t have a cent to buy food for her children. It is not right that they should withhold the books from her. She would not call you, but she has been literally crying over this for the last few days, and I am angry.
“My son already has his books and he is reading them to get himself in the frame of mind for when school starts back. Why should her son be deprived of the same opportunity over a fee that has nothing to do with the books?”
The reader reported that the mother took her case to the Ministry of Education and was directed back to the school to collect the book, as all the necessary fees had been paid — but was again denied the books.
When she went back to the school to get the books, it was reported, the principal was absent and she was told other staff member could not issue them because the principal had given a directive which stood until he said otherwise.
Barbados Today understands that the mother, who was reduced to tears again, made another appeal to the principal, stating that the Ministry of Education had sent her back to him to get the text books, but was once again refused.
When contacted, Principal Joseph King said he was aware that the woman was desirous of being issued textbooks on behalf of her son but he preferred not to comment.
“Yes I am aware of the situation, but I prefer to make no comment on it actually. I am not really into dealing with parents who run to the media looking to make news,” King said.
Acting Deputy Chief Education Officer (Schools), Dr. Roderick Rudder, who is filling in for substantive holder of that office, Joy Adamson, said he too was aware of the situation but it was his understanding that Adamson had issued a directive that should be followed to resolve the matter.
“As far as I am aware a directive was issued by Joy Adamson, not just to the St. Leonard’s Boys’ School but to all schools. I don’t have that circular in front of me right now so I can’t speak to it,” said Rudder.
When asked for a summary of the circular or whether the directive was to issue the books or for the mother to pay the PTA fees, he again stressed that he could not speak with any authority at the time.
“Like I said, I have heard of the situation and it was to my knowledge that the matter was being dealt with, but I do not know what directive was given. I am not in possession of that circular at the moment, but I will get a copy now that you have raised the issue and then I will be in a position to speak with some authority to this situation,” Rudder noted. [email protected]