Students of the St. John’s Secondary School at Anna Catherina, West Coast Demerara who have been displaced for the past two years demanded a new school during a picketing exercise yesterday.
The students have been housed at the Community Centre at Den Amstel and together with their parents voiced their concerns about the inconvenience they are facing.
Residents of the community also came out in support of the students while declaring “we want our community centre back. Two years is long enough.
This place was not built for a school; persons should go there for fun.”
Bearing placards, some of which read: ‘We need a new school’ and ‘give us St. John’s back, please,’ the students chanted ‘we want we own school…’
This newspaper observed that during the protest, school was going on as normal but the protesting students had refused to return until their concerns were met.
At the time too, officers from the Department of Education in Region Three had visited the school and were engaged in discussions with the head teacher.
President of the Parent-Teachers’ Association, Jaunice Grant told Stabroek News that the students had been relocated to that facility because of the deterioration of the upper flat of the building.
They were told that it would be a temporary arrangement but now, two years later they were still stuck there and have not been told anything about the rehabilitation of the school which has a population of over 200.
According to her, if the upper flat, which had started to cave in, is beyond repair then the authorities should dismantle it and extend the lower flat so the students can return as soon as possible.
The land belongs to the Anglican Church and the parents said they were hearing rumours that the “church want the land back. If that is the case the government should try to locate another plot of land.”
They lamented that the crammed classrooms are situated close to each other and the children are uncomfortable. They have also been denied transfers to other schools.
Besides, they said, the centre does not have electricity, the toilets do not flush properly and are “smelly” and teachers are not allowed to display teaching aids.
The parents pointed out too that whenever there is an activity at the centre the students cannot attend school.
The students would visit the Leonora Secondary School for home economics practicals but have complained that they “do not feel accepted.” One parent announced that “this is not good for their learning ability and their mindset.”
They are also limited in some areas, whereby they are unable to do science and agricultural projects. The parents emphasized that the situation has forced many of the students to quit school.
They said some who were from within walking distance to the Anna Catherina location have dropped out because they could not afford the transportation cost.
The parents stressed that they do not want the school, which accommodates mostly “slow learners” to eventually “phase out” because the students have the ability to do well.
They were proud that the school has improved in its performance with some students obtaining grades one and two passes at the CSEC examinations.
They said too that despite their setbacks, the students had also performed well at the math and science fairs.
The parents recalled that several years ago the school had started to fall apart and the students were placed at the Den Amstel Primary and at the Practical Instruction Centre until the repairs were completed.
This time, they said, the secondary schools on the coast have refused to accept the children when approached.