THERE are fears that the safety of students at Paul Bogle High school in St Thomas could be at risk due to consistent and systematic chaos, disorganisation, lack of resources and leadership, and administrative inefficiencies at the institution.
The concerns have come from an educator employed to the school who brought the matters to light on Friday after a number of teachers stayed away from the classroom, upset over the long-standing problems which she believes are now at crisis levels. The issues include rampant indiscipline and violence among students, as well as some teachers shunning their duties and leaving their classes unattended.
“It is far and wide, from the top down to the bottom,” she told the Jamaica Observer, pointing out that while there are issues of leadership, the situation extends far beyond Principal Carey Kelly, and consistent pleas over the years to tackle the mountain of problems before the situation escalates — as she believes it has now — have fallen on deaf ears .
She pointed to the recent incidents of violence among students at other institutions, including the fatal stabbing of a female student by another at Kingston Technical High school in St Andrew, stressing that: “People’s children are at risk.”
The teacher said that in addition to the chaos created when children are left to loiter in the compound during class hours, some of the educators who are being hired do not suit the needs of the students. She said there is a grave need for literacy and numeracy teachers at the institution: “We get most of the students at the lower end of the scale, therefore the teachers we employ should have qualifications to match.”
Things came to a head on Friday when several teachers did not show up for classes. She said she knows of at least eight who had taken that decision.
“It’s not just [about] Mr Kelly. Of course he’s one of the main problems, but it’s more than the principal — it’s the whole system. There are issues that have to do with everything. The teachers too — they sit in the staff room, they don’t go to classes, and they have the students there; and administrative staff aren’t doing what they should. They get leave whenever so there is no structure. In terms of indiscipline, that is high — fights, weapons — sexual activities are high,” she stated.
Furthermore, she said the school has been without a dean of discipline since September despite the fact that the institution had been given ample notice of the departure. “Up to today there has not been a replacement; and they knew the person was going to resign, and you know the type of students we have — the fights and the war, the sex,” she said.
“I didn’t stay home because I want to cause mischief; I work hard. I’ve been there for many years [but] it is really sad, the breakdown,” she lamented.
According to her, the situation has gone on for years, and both the school board and the education ministry are aware. She said numerous meetings have been held, including one on Wednesday, but that it is the “same meeting for years. We are frustrated and we are tired of complaining of the issues. You express your concerns and that’s it”.
Another concern is that there are “strange” males coming on to the school campus, the teacher said: “They turn up, you don’t know why they’re there. One teacher went into her class and the young men were in the room. They’re not students, not past students, they were just in the room.”
The Observer was unable to ascertain the exact number of teachers who were absent from work on Friday. Board Chairman Paul Wilson advised that he was unable to comment on the situation until next week, following a report from the school. Similarly, education officer Marcia Dallas McKenzie also declined to comment as checks were being carried out and no official report had come from the school. Repeated efforts to contact Principal Carey Kelly were unsuccessful.