"School Closures Creating Concerns for Parents" - Johnson-Smith
Opposition Spokesperson on Education and Youth, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, is expressing concerns regarding reports of the impending closure of several primary schools by the Ministry of Education.
Senator Johnson Smith observed that while the Opposition supports the policy of space rationalization and had in fact started the school space audit aimed at increasing efficiencies in the education sector, the policy must be strategically and sensitively implemented in the interest of children and parents.
She called on the Ministry to ensure that its consultations with the affected schools and communities are transparent and clear, that findings are communicated in a timely manner, and that while it considers the efficiencies to be achieved, that the Ministry must also consider the impact on students and parents and the risk of increasing levels of absenteeism.
She said "Some schools which I understand are being considered for closure are close to students' homes and communities, and if they are closed, the children will have to travel miles away to the nearest Primary School. This will not only create additional costs for parents, but runs counter to the recently announced policy of the Ministry to place GSAT students in institutions close to their homes to remove travel costs from reasons of absenteeism."
She continued: "In addition, I've been made aware that in at least two parishes uncertainty about the Ministry's plans are causing panic and concern as parents are unable to plan for the next school year. Some parents are also concerned because where they have actually been told of the closures and the closest schools identified, some of these schools appear overpopulated to them."
The Senator said in closing that while there is a reported plan to close 24 schools, there is a list of 184 schools slated for closure and that perhaps the Ministry's own uncertainty about schools to be closed is generating concerns within affected communities.