Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) students protested Friday morning the school board’s decision not to renew the contracts of a quarter of all teachers and the principal’s contract in the midst of ongoing Caribbean Examinations Council CXC exams. This writes The Daily Herald.
SCS form-four student Veronic Alvarez Londoño said students wanted to peacefully protest at the Government Building after school hours but were advised against this. Instead, they called on student protesters to wear black and gather on the school grounds calling on the board to meet them at 10:00am.
Board members did not show up, but Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and Commissioner Bruce Zagers came to the school prior to the announced time. Londoño read a protest letter drafted by students and handed it to the Governor. Johnson, and Zagers expressed their empathy with the students’ stress, confusion and the educational gaps caused by the board’s decisions. The officials promptly exited the scene avoiding facing concerned parents who showed up on time. Students refused to enter classrooms until the board’s decision is reversed.
Three SCS teachers pledged to submit their resignation in solidarity with colleagues and to protest the “abusive employment practices by a politically- appointed board, which extends no justifi cation for its actions.”
The students took offense at statements made as an attempt to trivializing their protests as influenced by teachers. Londoño stressed this was a student initiative and that they are determined to have their voices heard despite attempts to silence their outcry.
Several concerned parents joined Londoño later in expressing astonishment at the lack of accountability and even rudeness displayed by the SCS board, which not only declined to respond but allegedly threatened those who voiced concern.
Londoño explained she is to lose the very teachers that have the largest impact on her exam preparations and expressed her concerns about the predictable long duration in hiring new teachers. Securing teachers from overseas usually takes months and new teachers would have little knowledge of the local curriculum, examination criteria and local culture. “If new teachers come, they will not know the system and by the time they get to know us, the environment, and get to make this home it will take a year. I don’t have a year to waste. I need someone in school that will stay and help me with…or I won’t be able to take exams. This worries me and my parents because my future is at stake. They [SCS board- Ed.] don’t think of us when they make these decisions. It happened before, but this time it affects my studies and I can’t take this anymore,” Londoño said. “Dutch schools have education professionals serving on boards. We need responsible and educated board members, people who know what is good for our future and understand the Dutch system. I don’t think this board knows and understands the work of our dedicated teachers. Our school is among the best ranked in Caribbean Netherlands’ examinations. Our teachers stay with us after school hours, and help us at times using their own money to buy books we need.”