Parents ramp up protest for new St John’s school building

Parents of the displaced students of St John’s Secondary yesterday continued to lock the teachers out of the community centre at Den Amstel to emphasize their seriousness about getting a new school, though they have been told that the school is being phased out.

The students and teachers have been housed at the centre for the past two years after the school building deteriorated.

The parents lamented that even though the current facility has proven to be very uncomfortable and inconvenient, no effort has been made to renovate or rebuild the school.

 Parents guarding the door to prevent the teachers from entering
Parents guarding the door to prevent the teachers from entering

All of the furniture could not fit in the building and what was left outside has been damaged.

They related that $150,000 per month is being paid to rent the centre when that money could have gone towards a new building.

“They have enough money to rebuild the school. They need to look into the interest of the students,” the parents said.

They had planned to take the demonstration to the Ministry of Education in Georgetown yesterday but have decided to go at 10 am today instead.

The school does not have a first form, as no students were awarded places there following the last National Grade Six Assessment and parents said they had heard, more than a month ago, that the school would eventually be phased out.

Subsequently a regional official held a meeting and confirmed that the school would be phased out and the students would be placed at other schools. The parents said they did not agree with that decision and had been planning to protest since then.

Yesterday the children stood with their placards in front of the closed building, chanting “want a new school.”

The teachers sat quietly in the snackettes situated in a corner of the compound as some parents kept guard at the doors to the upper and lower flats of the building.

A parent, Erica Winfield told Stabroek News that she went to the school at 8 am yesterday and blocked the door. She was joined by other parents and by 8.30 am when the teachers started arriving they were prevented from entering the building.

The parents got angry when a regional education official showed up during the demonstration and reportedly declared that she would “find place for the teachers.” The official came briefly in a vehicle and left.

“That means that the students would be left on their own just because they protesting. So they can’t speak for their rights,” they snapped.

According to a student, “two years ago, since before the playground opposite the school was built, President Donald Ramotar promised us a new school. The playground finish long and up to now we can’t get a school.”

Other students told this newspaper that it is a shame that they are being neglected because the school has been producing good results at the CSEC exams.

They stated too that the school has disciplined students, noting that at other schools some students were seen wearing headphones in class. “That don’t happen here,” they stressed.

“We want St John’s back and we want the same teachers. They explain well and they are more than teachers; they are like mothers and fathers to us,” the students said.

The parents insisted that they would not allow normal school to continue “until they [authorities] give us a proper answer.”

Residents of the community had also come out in support of the students, 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.”

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