Called upon publicly yesterday to defend her daughter’s attendance at a private school, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand said it was done in her child’s “best interest.”
It was at the Education Ministry’s end-of-year press conference yesterday that Manickchand was questioned on the trend of public officials placing their children in private schools rather than public ones.
Manickchand said that while she could not speak for others, the law provides for parents to make choices on their children’s education.
“The Constitution of Guyana allows for private schools, which allow parents from across the country to make choices for their children. Most parents I know do what they believe would be best for their children,” Manickchand said. “It would be hard to ask me to speak here about why other people do things,” she added.
“My daughter is in a private school and it’s a very simple reason,” she said. “She was born in 2010 and in 2013 she would have turned 3 but she was not allowed in the public school because she was a month younger than she needed to be… If she did, you would ask me now why I broke the rules to allow my child into a school that I wasn’t allowing other people into.”
Manickchand added that there was a private school willing to accept her daughter and in any case the decision did not rest solely with her. “I’ll ask you to remember also she has another parent, who also makes decisions for her and that other parent felt it would be in her best interest, given the place she was at, to start school at the time that she did.”
She further said that her daughter would have to be demoted from upper to lower nursery if she was now moved into the public school system. “I know of no parent who would do that to their child; if I’m doing what’s in the best interest of every other child in the country, you should demand of me that I do what’s in the best interest of my child,” Manickchand maintained.
Earlier this year, the age of admission for nursery school children was lowered and this change, Manickchand said, has seen over 2,600 children being able to access nursery school earlier.
Since word of Manickchand’s explanation spread, persons have taken to social media to both blast and defend the minister. While some persons believe Manickchand’s decision to place her daughter in a private school implied that she, like others, viewed the public school system as inferior, others say she has every right to make decisions on her children’s education.
For years, there has been debate on the quality of education in private schools as compared to that of public ones. Particularly around the release of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) results, questions are raised on whether children who attend private schools have access to better education.
In June, this year’s NGSA results showed that only one public school student placed in the top 10 best performing students throughout the nation. Further, the majority of students who made up the top 168 candidates were from private schools in Guyana.
In response, Manickchand had stated that students’ achievements must be applauded, regardless of the school they attended.