Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Lovell Francis said he was “radically opposed” to the suggestion of allowing school children three days off after Carnival.
“Giving a week off from school after Carnival will not happen under my watch,” he said as he spoke of continued student absenteeism this week.
Speaking to reporters after attending a Spelling B competition held at the Marabella North Secondary School, on Friday Francis said he was against the idea of giving the Carnival week off and taking back a week of the August vacation.
“There is a lesson to be learnt here. Yes, we have two days of revelry but after that, we get back to work. We are in the midst of building a nation. We are trying to promote a culture of productivity. Why should we give additional days off? I am against it philosophically and operationally because of my understanding of what this nation needs,” Francis said.
“There may be a day when someone else does it, but that will not be me as this would send a wrong message to our nation which is already facing low productivity,” the Minister said.
Instead, Francis said educators should find innovative ways to bring out students and teachers by planning educational activities such as what occurred at Marabella North Secondary.
“I think this school presents a good argument as to how it could be done. If you do something that is fun within the curriculum, that is exciting and involves the students it will be easy to encourage them to come out,” Francis added.
He said such activities will help in reduce absenteeism in the days after Carnival. Francis said if organised properly students will be learning while having fun.
“If you find easy ways to get the children actively interested in learning, sometimes they don’t even realise they are learning,” the Minister added.
He noted that it would be hypocritical to teach children about the importance of productivity and work ethics and then give them additional days off from school.
“Educational time is supposed to be purposeful and we cannot afford to be wasting valuable teaching time. He also said the data compiled by the Ministry of Education showed that an earlier date for the Secondary Entrance Assessment examinations had little impact on performance because students generally train two years before the exams.
“If you lose two days of actual classroom time for Carnival, that has little impact on SEA students, who are home practising,” Francis said.
Narish Dialdas, an English teacher attached to the Modern Language department, said the Spelling B competition was meant to address the level of literacy and numeracy at the school.
Too many children are leaving secondary schools and are not literate. He said it was an interdisciplinary programme and the school hoped to have a competition with other schools in Victoria County. Ten finalists participated in the competition.