Central High stakeholders fear school to be shut down

-mount protest outside ministry

Students, the Board and Members of the PTA in front of the Education Ministry yesterday.

Representatives of the Central High School’s Board, the Parent-Teachers Association and students, held a protest against the Ministry of Education yesterday over reported plans to shut the school.

The group of about 30, gathered in front of the Ministry of Education’s main office on Brickdam around 11:30am yesterday, when they held a silent protest to bring attention to the matter, in the hopes of saving an already 90-year-old legacy.

It was related that Chief Education Officer (CEO) Marcel Hutson had indicated in a meeting last June that the Central High School would either be phased out or transferred elsewhere. It was also stated that meetings were subsequently held with the former and current Ministers of Education, the last meeting having been held in November, with promises of a follow-up meeting that would include the board and Hutson.

Hutson was contacted yesterday for a response on the matter as well as in relation to another protest held on Tuesday by parents of a city school. While Stabroek News was not afforded the opportunity to enquire about the matter at hand before the call was terminated, Hutson had suggested that questions be directed to the Principal Education Officer. However, when that officer was contacted, it was related that there was no word on either matter.

“It’s two things he said—either we decant the school or we phase out. What we’ve seen is that from the last intake, no students came. And you think they came and tell the teachers anything and tell the board anything or spoke to the PTA or the members at large? No, he hasn’t done that. And we see this as gross eye pass to us…” PTA President Brentnol Gibbs stated yesterday. Gibbs explained that the heart of the problem is that the stakeholders are being kept in the dark with regards to the way forward and what the intended plans for the school are. He said that Hutson had told him it would take about three years to phase the school out.

“I have an article here where Mr Olato Sam (former Chief Education Officer) said they’re not going to phase out Central High School. And you know what Mr Hutson told us? It’s that don’t worry with Olato Sam, it was his decision…What’s affecting us is that the officials of the ministry aren’t coming and saying anything.”

“I’m calling on the president of this country, if he has to speak to the Minister of Education and the CEO of the Ministry of Education, because the attitude towards us at those meetings, it was unbecoming. It’s as though they don’t care about our children,” Ruth Howard, Chair of the Central High School Board weighed in.

“…we have persons who are products of Central like the late executive President LFS Burnham, we have Dr Fung-A-Fat, we have Bernard DeSantos Snr, an attorney-at-law, we have…. the current GECOM Chairman Mr James Patterson. All those people and more, there are so many, that were products of Central High School. Could you say now, why would the Ministry of Education want to close a school that is performing?” Howard questioned, referring to her placard which depicted the school’s performance rates over the past few years.

Gibbs acknowledged that the school’s building is in a poor state, but noted that no budgetary provisions were made for the school, nor has the ministry seemed keen to take recommendations to have the school relocated.

“They got a contract for (St Rose’s) to be repaired. Why are you treating us like second class students or second class people? Why is it you’re doing this to Central High?” Gibbs questioned.

The Central High School, founded in 1928, is reportedly home to more than 500 students and 30- plus teachers.

Yesterday’s was the first demonstration by the school on the matter, but if no action is taken, protests will continue every Wednesday.

“The CEO just came downstairs telling me that the children shouldn’t be there and it’s unauthorized. I said, `Pleased to meet you sir, I’ve been trying to get you a long time’, and he’s telling me I should go to his secretary and make an appointment. I am not going there. He’s disrespectful to us. We’re going nowhere until they meet with us properly and tell us what they’re doing with Central,” Howard stated.

Gibbs added: “The students of themselves at our last meeting said that they’re willing to come out here on their own free will. We didn’t have to prompt them, because it’s affecting them. They even want to go in front of parliament when they’re having sessions there to let the parliamentarians know what’s going on with Central High School. So it’s not that we forced the students to come out here; we didn’t ask them to come out here. They came out here on their own, free will.”

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