On day four of a student protest that has attracted national attention, Principal of the Grantley Adams Memorial School Valdez Francis has reminded parents and guardians by letter that their children are not permitted to leave the school’s premises during the school day “without permission”.
His reminder came as vocal students pressed on with their protest action converging once more at the school’s perimeter and insisting that they will not be purchasing food from the school’s canteen facilities even as the school head continues to cut off access to the food and snack vendors selling outside the fenced premises.
In a note to parents dated November 14 Francis also reminded parents that students are not permitted to take packages over the school’s fence, and made it clear that this breach could create safety and security risks.
“Please advise your child/ward to avoid getting into this practice,” the letter read.
Francis’ statement came as a caller to a radio station this morning claimed to have witnessed an adult associated with a local media house assisting students with purchases from a nearby vendor.
Earlier in the day before the start of school, students were observed crowding the vendors outside making their purchases.
In his letter, the principal noted that the students are free to take to school lunch, but he issued a further reminder that the school has a canteen on the premises for the convenience of the children who may choose to use that facility.
However, it was that canteen against which the secondary school students are rebelling saying that the prices are too high and the food served is not up to standard in their opinion.
“Kindly remind your child/ward to comply with the staff and the rules of the school at all times. Remember that ignorance of the school’s rules is not an excuse. Again, we thank you for supporting us as we work together to enhance the education and environment for your child,” wrote the principal who has not yet spoken publicly about the issue.
Meanwhile, the aggrieved students said they just want some help.
“Nobody ain’t listening to we. The food taste bad, and we ain’t buying it,” one student shouted to members of the media who were outside the school during lunch.
The sentiment expressed by that student, was echoed by many others who stood on the inside holding onto the fence.
The students said they wanted to make purchases of food and snacks from the vendors from whom they have been buying “for years”.
Recently, the vendors, who operated inside the school and right outside the main gate, were asked to leave by the school’s management.
Principal Francis also ordered that all gates be locked during lunchtime, including the gates leading to the playing field, to stop the students from purchasing from the vendors who now sell from a bus stop.
On Wednesday evening, Ministry officials, led by acting Minister of Education Senator Lucille Moe met with the principal and members of the school’s board, including Chairman Dr Johnson Lewis.
Following the two-hour meeting, which started around 3 p.m., Senator Moe told Barbados TODAY that the Ministry officials had to discuss what they were updated on before a decision on action could be taken.
Prominent child advocate Shelly Ross told Barbados TODAY that the situation is “sad” and confirms that proper leadership is needed in schools. She claims that the action by the school’s management shows that there is a lack of effective communication between the parties.
The advocate said if there is truth to the students’ complaints, while she does not support vending outside of schools, she believes the situation needs to be remedied as soon as possible.
“I admire the children for coming together to demand their rights. And I would have hoped that the parents back them up in a positive way. But what I am afraid of is that at many of these schools, if parents join or say anything, they are getting arrested. I think that if this principal had the knowledge and the ability to work effectively with his students, there could be a different outcome,” Ross said.
“It shouldn’t have gotten so far. What I do not like is that a principal could find time to sit at a gate, as though he has nothing to do and do not have the ability to deal with simple matters in a school. . .” Ross added.
Two police officers who visited the school during lunch, stood outside the fence and quietly spoke to a group of students who said that they were hungry.