|Family Island teacher shortages prompt students to stay at home|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Sep 21, 2012
Schools on Inagua and Andros prompted some parents to keep their children home on those islands this week.
A handful of parents demonstrated outside the Inagua All Age School and kept their children out of classes in protest for three days this week, according to Deborah Farquharson, president of the Inagua Parent Teachers Association (PTA).
Parents in Andros also pulled some students out of the Staniard Creek Primary School earlier this week because of a teacher shortage, Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson said.
Farquharson said parents and concerned citizens staged a “sit out” on Monday, Wednesday and yesterday. The parents also demonstrated outside the school with placards. The school needs a high school science teacher and instructors for grades four and five, the PTA head said.
Glenn Lightbourn, principal of Inagua All Age School, said the protests did not disrupt lessons. However, he lamented the fact that some parents kept their children out of class to send a message to the Ministry of Education.
Director of Education Lionel Sands said the Ministry of Education is working assiduously to fill the vacancies. However, he added that the current complement of teachers in Andros and Inagua conforms to the ministry’s standard teacher-student ratio. Sands said there are 21 teachers and 209 students in Inagua and 40 students and three teachers at Staniard Creek.
He explained that several teachers, including those assigned to work in Iguana, resigned after the summer break creating vacancies. He said the ministry has to go through red tape, including a criminal background check and obtaining financial clearance from another government agency, before the new instructors can assume their posts.
“Once those things are done we will have the teachers in those schools,” Sands told The Guardian. “We are asking parents to be mindful of these processes.”
The parents on Inagua are also upset over the condition of the buildings used to teach high school students. In a letter sent to the minister of education, those parents said the building used to teach high school students home economics and science is “crumbling”. The letter said students were moved to a society hall for lessons but were forced to have classes “under an oak tree” when that building had electrical problems last week.
The letter also said that a building used for English and math lessons was “destroyed” by fire but the debris has not been cleared away, making it an “unsafe eye sore”. The letter also noted that one high school block was condemned before 2005.
Sands could not speak specifically to the reported structural deficiencies at the Inagua All Age School. He did say that ministry would “do all it can to eliminate those challenges.”
However, Wilson also told The Guardian that a block at the Inagua All Age School had been “condemned.”
“It is time that Inagua gets a new facility,” she said, adding that parents have to continue to agitate government for more resources at public schools.
Wilson said there is a shortage of teachers throughout the country. She said many people are not drawn to the field because teachers are not well paid and the union has to fight for work benefits.
Wilson said she was told that one new teacher should be in place in Inagua today and another should be at the school next week.
photos in server provided by Deborah Farquharson
1. A school block at the Inagua All Age School. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF DEBORAH FARQUHARSON
2. Parents protest outside the Inagua All Age School this week