Government is facing a possible lawsuit in a fresh case involving a parent who wishes to homeschool her child.
The mother said she was forced to homeschool her 13-year-old son at the beginning of January this year after he was severely bullied at a rural secondary school during the first term of the last school year.
However, she was told two weeks ago by the Ministry of Education that her application to continue the boy’s education at home had been rejected, and her son must return to the formal school system.
In a letter dated August 20, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, the ministry informed the parent that following a review on May 28 of the child’s written and other work during the last academic year, it felt the boy would be better off at New Horizons Academy from the new school year which begins on September 10.
“A case conference was scheduled on 25 July, 2018 to which you were invited but did not attend to discuss the findings of the review,” the letter read.
“Please be informed that the review discovered little evidence that the approved curriculum for homeschooling was being followed,” the ministry stated.
This has drawn the ire of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF), which was instrumental in a 2016 case involving Rastafarian couple Kim Jackman and Charles Lashley, who had been found guilty of failing to register their children in school to receive full-time education, a decision that was later overturned by the court.
Recalling that case, AHF President Paul Rock told a news conference today the single mother, who has a St Thomas mailing address, was concerned about the education of her child for this school term, which begins in four days’ time.
Rock said the mother, along with the AHF, was willing to take the ministry to court if necessary.
“We are saying here clearly that we do not accept the decision of the ministry. We don’t think it is just. We think it is against the mother’s constitutional and human rights and we need it addressed,” he stressed.
“We have been to court with the ministry already as you know, and we are willing to go again. We don’t want to go there but the mother has already engaged a lawyer and had communication sent to them [the Ministry of Education],” he added.
Rock said the AHF had written to the Ministry of Education and the Prime Minister requesting that they “look into this situation, reevaluate it and allow the mother to continue homeschooling her child”.
He was particularly incensed over the assessment process, which he described as unfair, and the short notice given to the single mother, who works part-time.
“In the assessment of this mother and her son . . . you are saying that ‘you are not fit to educate your child’. If you can say this, where is the assessment of the teachers and people responsible for all the children that are failing according to your standards in our school? Where are the assessment for those?” Rock insisted.
He charged that the review of the child’s educational activities was done “abruptly with notice being given the same day”, and the letter requesting the meeting for the case conference was sent two weeks later.
Equally upsetting, Rock said, was the fact that the child was assigned to New Horizons Academy – a school designed to cater to the needs of children with behavioural problems – when he was the victim of bullying and was encouraged by teachers to engage in homeschooling.
Rock, who said he had seen improvements in the 13-year-old boy’s academic work since he started homeschooling, was confident the ministry would see the light.
“Really and truly there can only be on resolution. If the ministry wants to do something, help the parents who want to help themselves, don’t penalize them,” he pleaded. [email protected]