An increasing number of parents are concerned about the security of their children who attend privately managed schools on island, one of which was recently in the headlines over reports that several of its students had been involved in sex tapes circulated in the public domain. According to teachers who requested anonymity, the videos were only the tip of the iceberg; much had been going on that was being kept under wraps.
Over the past months the school in question has suffered an unusually high teacher turnover rate that has left students on several occasions in classrooms with little to no supervision. Reports reaching this writer indicate more problems ahead due to staff resignations, for reasons associated with the current state of affairs at the school, as well as inadequate salaries.
Parents have accused the school’s church-appointed board of cover-ups, while making no real effort to get to the bottom of the scandals and rumorus that have adversely affected the particular school. Ahead of the new school year, dozens of parents have transferred their children back into the public education system while others are left unsure of what to do next.
According to one teacher, students heading to the upper forms have been the hardest hit. Only a few months away from CXC examinations, SBAs for many subjects, typically submitted by February of the exam year, have not been presented to students. New teaching recruits say they were shocked to discover just how far behind were the students, particularly those headed for fifth form.
Paul Neptune (not his real name), a teacher who recently started working at the school, reported that he was wasting time trying to improve matters. He said things had deteriorated to the point that some students were being labelled as “bad apples” for acting out, with not much of an effort by school authorities at intervention.
“Some of these students come from homes where they live with all sorts of issues,” he said. “They don’t have the best influences from their parents, and they come into the school and you can see what they are going through reflected in their behaviour. Yet, there is no counsellor presently at the school. What do we really expect from these students?”
To further complicate the situation, several students have been forced to spend indeterminate amounts of time at home as a result of the parents’ inability to pay school fees ranging from approximately $1,500 to $2,500 annually. Affected parents revealed that students are constantly sent home if their balance is not up to date, and are not allowed to return until the problem has been settled.
“For a Christian school,” yet another parent told me,“that is just not good enough. There needs to be a better understanding of our predicament.”
The mother, who did not want to be named, said she was aware of at least five other students who’d been out of school, one for two entire terms. They were expected to return to the institution in September.
Another parent reported that she was unsure whether she wanted to keep her “special needs son” at the school, with all its unattended problems. With hopes that things would change with the appointment of a new school principal, she enrolled him for the new school year but later was informed by a member of the school administration that the new principal, who took office two months ago, “will not last very long”.
Reports indicate that attempts by the school’s new principal to improve the status quo have been met with resistance.
“I feel bad for some of the teachers in that school,” the woman told me. “They come with good intentions but the system is what it is and no one really seems interested or bold enough to do what must be done, for various reasons including personal survival.”
She added: “It’s unfortunate because so many of these students come either from the church, or from families who just prefer them to have this Christian education. Others come from schools that could not handle them. For students like that, this is their last resort. To see things falling apart like this is heartbreaking.”
Speaking on the largely unaddressed issue of student sex tapes – hardly something new here – Paul Neptune said: “It’s out of control. You have these videos going around, with female students engaging in sexual activities with multiple males. Students even have sex on campus, and people turn a blind eye.
“When it is a religious school you tend to expect better but it seems the answer is to sweep everything under the carpet and pretend all is well. Those in authority are reluctant to acknowledge what is going on, let alone accept help or to consider redirection. The young people deserve better. Regardless of their misfortunes and the consequences they should not be abandoned. They represent our future, after all.”
The STAR contacted a school principal this week, perchance to discuss the online sex tapes. She said she was aware of only one case of “such gross sexual misconduct” which her school had already “dealt with”.
“From the school’s standpoint,” she said, “that matter was brought to a close. A decision was taken. That particular case involved a female student from the school and a male from another school.” The female student was reportedly expelled; it is not clear what were the consequences for her partner in slime.
The principal admitted that there were challenges at her school.
“Some parents are frustrated, it is true,” she said. “Many of them have come and told me they are removing their children. There are obstacles in the way of the school’s progress and if they are not appropriately dealt with, whatever I might do on my own will have little or no impact.”
Additionally: “From day one there have been challenges. I am up for confronting them. I came in well prepared, and with an open mind. When people heard I had been given the job, many told me that they were happy I had been the one chosen. They knew I would do a good job. But they also warned to be very careful – and prayerful.”
As for the school’s other issues: “Those who are up there and who have the authority to make changes in the school’s structure are well aware of the impediments.”
A new faculty has reportedly been appointed for the upcoming school year, but some parents remain unconvinced they will see appropriate improvements any time soon.
All efforts to reach particular officials at the education ministry proved futile, for various reasons including unavailability!