Education Minister Ronald Jones is mum on a decision to close the Society Primary School but Attorney-at Law David Comissiong is leading a charge to force the Minister to break his silence and reverse the move.
A strongly worded petition launched by students, teachers, the ancillary staff, parents, Society Primary old scholars and others demands the decision be quashed and that immediate steps be taken to restore the institution to a fully functioning government primary school by the new term in September.
When Barbados TODAY contacted Minister Jones for comment, he insisted he would not respond.
Comissiong expressed the view that the decision was not properly thought through and he maintained that the school was of such historical significance that everything possible should be done to overturn the closure.
The social activist said what was particularly disturbing was the fact that the Ministry of Education proceeded to shut down the school without consulting the students, the parents, teachers and the surrounding community.
Comissiong, who met with the concerned groups on Monday, reported that parents and residents in the Society community feel hard done by the Democratic Labour Party administration.
“They feel very strongly that the closure of the school is part and parcel of the kind of neglect and lack of regard that has been demonstrated to the people of St. John over the years. They feel that St. John has been short changed by the authorities and that this episode is par for the course, they feel very aggrieved,” he told Barbados TODAY.
He said some parents raised concern that the number of schools in St John had been diminishing and with just three remaining, some suggested there may be no primary schools in the rural parish.
“I think the people of St. John deserve better than this and I trust that, on more sober reflection, the powers that be will realise they made an egregious mistake and will do the right thing and correct that mistake,” he said.
Comissiong further argued that the country was shooting itself in the foot if the institution remains closed in light of its historical significance.
“If Society Primary is closed what we have done is destroyed one of the most important historical institutions not only in Barbados but in the entire Caribbean, because we are talking about an institution that is 219 years old, an institution that has the distinction of being the first educational institution in Barbados established to educate the enslaved black children of our ancestors.”
He said the school could easily be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“If we look at the complex of educational institutions that arose out of the Christopher Codrington will and bequest, the Codrington College, the Codrington High School, the Lodge School and most importantly Society Primary, we can see that collectively what we have in St. John is a complex of educational institutions that could very well merit the designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” he explained.
Comissiong said the petition, which appeals to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Minister of Education Ronald Jones, Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley and Parliamentary Representative Mara Thompson, was only the beginning and he hinted that the matter could reach the law courts if their demands are not.
“We have something in Barbados called the Administrative Justice Act which permits one to go to the Supreme Court to have an administrative decision made by a government minister or any governmental official, to have a decision scrutinised and to have the court pronounce upon that decision, but we hope that would be a last resort, we trust that better judgment will prevail, once the historical significance is understood,” he said.