By Tabora Bojang
Authorities at the Latrikunda Sabiji Upper Basic and Senior School have sent home 120 students over poor academic performances and absenteeism, the principal of the school Ismaila Ceesay confirmed to The Standard.
The principal was responding to allegations by one Yusupha Jammeh who reported that his child, who was supposed to move from grade 7 to grade 8 was ‘unceremoniously’ given a transfer notice to quit the school without the consent of her parents.
Jammeh said when he went to the school for inquiries, the principal informed him that the school is issuing transfers to students who did not perform well during the last exams.
“I asked him if this was a directive from the Ministry but he replied that it was his discretion and that I should go back to pick my child’s transfer letter. I went to the school the following day and I was directed to one Mr Sanyang who insisted that my child has arrears of D250 which I must pay before I would be given her transfer letter.”
Jammeh, who is outraged by the decision, said he reported the matter to the DPS at the ministry of basic education who said they have spoken to the regional directorate to advise the school authorities to rescind the decision. “But when I went back to the school Friday, they [school authorities] still maintained their position. How can a public school send children home in the name of transferring them without indicating where they will go next? Where will the children go to school again? What interest would it serve to send a child home because he or she is not doing well in a school owned by the state?” Yusuf complained to The Standard.
When confronted with these allegations, Latrikunda school principal, Ismaila Ceesay who is also the president of the Gambia Teachers’ Union, said the decision to issue free transfer to students with zero passes was relayed to the parents at a meeting preceding the commencement of the academic year and it was welcomed by all.
Ceesay, who was posted to the school in the last academic year said he was briefed about the perennial absenteeism of students leading to poor academic performances.
“During the PTA meeting, I expressed this frustration to the parents and a lot of them were also concerned. Then we suggested to them that we will come up with some punitive measures that any child that has not been coming to school and at the end of the day fails exams, the child will be given a free transfer and those who could not meet up the criteria, will be asked to leave,” he said.
According to him, the criterion relayed to all parents in that meeting was that any student with zero passes will be asked to leave.
Asked what constitutes zero passes, he said it means students without a single pass in first, second and third terms. “All parents agreed,” Ceesay noted.
He said the free transfer policy was part of strategies adopted by the school to ensure parents take up the responsibility and see that the school breaks away from the notoriety of mass absenteeism even in exams like NAT and Gabece.
The principal added that they have also developed an electronic attendance system where parents are encouraged to get their children’s portal numbers so that they can log in to monitor their attendance.
He said the attitude of many parents towards the education of their children especially in public schools leaves much to be desired.
“Teachers, headmasters and principals are facing a lot of trouble when it comes to managing kids today. Most parents are not supportive. In private schools they come with strict rules and regulations and everyone will comply. Parents will drop and pick their children from school each day but when it comes to public schools, they are considered dump sites, nobody cares and it is not supposed to be like that. Public schools need to be better and this is why private schools are doing better administratively and academically,” he charged.
He vowed that unless parents accept to take responsibility, the school will maintain its stance.