PORT OF SPAIN –– Pressuring the Ministry of Education to discipline three senior teachers, the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha Board has shut down the Rio Claro Vedic Primary School, leaving students in a quandary. With national tests just 12 days away, angry parents protested Thursday, calling for the ministry to intervene.
The board has accused one of the teachers of having an “inappropriate relationship” while another was accused of desecrating the school’s religious texts by dumping them in a bin. The books were compilations of Vedic songs and prayers.
Parent Meera Mansingh Thursday said since Tuesday new locks had been placed on the gates of the school and a fresh batch of private security was hired.
“New security guards are manning the compound but we do not know why this action was taken,” Mansingh said. She explained, however, that some teachers were negligent in their duties and did not care about pupils.
“Now that tests are coming up we really do not know what is happening. Thursday a mike [public speaker] passed around saying that the school is closed until further notice but we do not know why,” Mansingh added. She called on Education Minister Anthony Garcia to intervene immediately and reopen the school.
But parent Vanessa Basdeo said the three teachers the board wanted to remove were actually among the hard-working staff members.
“For two years the school was under academic watch by the ministry because of the poor performance of the students but recently under this new adminstration students started to do better and now the board wants to remove the hard working teachers,” Basdeo said.
Radica Gainder, whose son is in second year, said it was sad that students had to suffer because people were “fighting for position”. She said regardless of the issues, the ministry had a duty to respond. Contacted Thursday, T&T Unified Teachers’ Association second vice-president, Lynsley Doodhai, said the board’s decision to close down the school was illegal.
“TTUTA condemns what is taking place. The Vedic Board is acting in a lawless manner. If the board has concerns this is not the way to handle the situation,” Doodhai said. He added that the matter should be addressed by the ministry and the Teaching Service Commission.
“This action has disrupted teaching and learning in the school and we want to say that rather than locking out the teachers, this should be addressed in a civil manner,” he said.
Saying the lockout was counter-productive, Doodhai called on Garcia to address the matter in the shortest possible time.
Contacted Thursday, general secretary of the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha Board, Avanti Supersad, said the lockout was a last resort. She said the board had been communicating with the ministry for the past two years but nothing was done to address the teachers’ conduct.
Asked why the board wanted the teachers out, Supersad said one teacher desecrated the Vedic books by throwing 22 copies inside a dustbin and throwing boxes of school lunch over it.
She said the teachers were not doing their duties and the standards of the school had dropped. She also alleged one of the teachers had an inappropriate relationship with an on-the-job trainee at the school.
“We are a denominational board and one of the requirements is that religious education must be upheld, staff must conform to our moral and religious guidelines by attending faith-based activities and allow students to participate,” Supersad said.
She lamented that only five new students had enrolled for the September term. Supersad also denied that parents were not informed of the developments.
“We have all our minutes of meetings. Parents were informed of the school closure via a mike and a meeting was held Thursday to discuss the issues,” she said.
Garcia could not be reached for comment Thursday as calls to his cellular phone went unanswered.