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Denominational Schools, Pillar Of Education System

Published: 
Thursday, August 21, 2014

Part 1

The education system in T&T would have crumbled with alarming swiftness if it were not for the enormous presence and contribution of the several denominational boards—both big and small. Denominational boards now need to raise a collective voice to convey their message to the misinformed and ill-informed sections of the population. Within recent times this has become fashionable for a small group of idle individuals who attempt to undermine the position and the status of the denominational schools in the education system.

Nothing has been presented or even remotely supported by evidence, research or facts, to give credence to the illogical and emotional statements. In fact, their views are an alarming, willful perversion of facts and one has to question personal agendas and motives.

It seems quite likely that their lack of influence in disabling the education system is the key motive, since denominational schools are well known to be in opposition to efforts to destabilise schools. The constant closure for a host of frivolous reasons that impact negatively on our young children’s education, more especially of government primary and secondary schools, is a good example.

Denominational schools remain open and deliver education except in the most adverse circumstances. In this context, it is therefore immoral that TTUTA’s President would say “Our education system is being manipulated by very powerful forces which will then maintain the status quo, to maintain that close differential, to maintain that system of elitism that characterised colonialism.” (T&T Guardian, August 10, 2014, P A19).

If there is any force that manipulates the education system to the detriment of the nation, it is TTUTA. More than any force in the country, TTUTA has to take responsibility for the serious problems of crime and deviance in the society. 

When teachers can take 28 days leave per year; when teachers take five days a year for an obsolete “bank time”; when schools lose a further ten days a year for all kinds of activities; when teachers mercilessly walk off the school’s plant for days, weeks and months at a time for petty reasons; when schools have end-of-term examinations for almost a month to six weeks each term, instead of one to two weeks, then what can one expect?

Truancy, deviance and indiscipline are the key outcomes of the indiscipline and irresponsibility that will result in positions taken by TTUTA. TTUTA seems to be peeved by its inability to manipulate teachers and principals at the denominational schools.

Make no mistake, there is a similar plan to assassinate the integrity and performance of denominational schools, to reduce them to the level of ordinariness of most government schools. Also, make no mistake, the denominational boards will not sit quietly and allow people with agendas to dismantle our education system which was first started by religious organisations more than a century ago.

Very briefly, some people seem inclined to demonise denominational schools as being responsible for a perceived unequal education system. This is furthest from the truth and religious boards will not allow such a falsehood to be unchallenged. More than a century ago, religious organisations, as part of their mandate to better the condition of people in society, helped create an education system to respond to the educational need to their flocks.

Of course, schools constructed at that time could not facilitate the entry of everyone who was desirous of entering a school. However, over several decades, religious organisations maintained an expansion course to allow entry for as many students as space would facilitate.

In fact, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha began the establishment of its education presence in 1952 and continued until this expansion was unfortunately stopped for decades by the former PNM regime. With 43 primary schools and five secondary schools, the SDMS has a significant partnership with the education system.

All of our schools have been consistently performing in various spheres—religion, cultural, intellectual, etc, with high levels of success, and so too are other schools owned by other religious bodies. It is this kind of success that has made some people envious of denominational schools. It is rubbish to believe that the destruction of the denominational schools will result in a more equal education system or improved school performance.

It is equally foolhardy to believe that undermining the denominational schools would result in improvements in social and moral education, and the all-round development of students. In an illiterate and dysfunctional society it is easy to peddle falsehoods as though they are the truth. This series will demonstrate the importance and profound contribution of denominational schools in this society and the respect and appreciation that are due to the religious organisations for their selfless contribution to national development. 

When a misguided few people, persevere with their misinformation against denominational schools, it is appropriate for denominational boards to state the facts and dispel the lies.

To be continued…