Education Minister Tells FLOW in the Morning All Students On Waiting List To Enroll Before Years-end
By the end of this academic year the 60-plus primary school children on the government waiting list due to a lack of space in public schools will all be placed in private institutions, thanks to an approved $212,000 by cabinet.
This announcement was made by Minister of Education Hon. Rachel Taylor while giving an interview on RTC’s FLOW In The Morning’s Friday radio show, ‘Human Rights In A Time Of Crisis’ with Sabrina Green.
Discussing the topic ‘Education on Human Rights’, the education minister promised that by next Monday, the process of getting students into private schools would begin.
She said government would be using the route of a voucher programme instituted by the previous administration. She said the voucher programme is a more seamless way of working the process.
“The subsidy programme is a programme where we pay for a teacher at the private school, and then we would be able to put about 10 or 20, or whatever number that we have, depending on the grade of the teacher, and the number of students, and the grades on the waiting list,” she explained.
She added: "And then we also recently introduced…about a year ago, a voucher programme. Now, the voucher programme was introduced by the previous administration…giving parents the opportunity to benefit from a voucher. Now, with the voucher, you can choose any school of your choice that’s on our list.
“We realize that a voucher programme is more effective. So, we are going to capture these 60 students and ensure that they are placed before the end of this academic term. It has been a challenge for many years. Coming into government as a former teacher and principal, I know what a challenge is like, and so, we jumped on it immediately.”
Initially, it was purported that about 260-odd students were on the public schools’ waiting list, but Taylor explained that after due diligence it was discovered that many of the students were actually attending private schools, but their parents wanted to switch them to public schools, hence the hefty list.
She explained that had the private schools bought into the OpenEmu Software Programme, which the public schools are using, to track students’ placement, the ballooned waiting list would not have been created.
“We have an OpenEmu Software in our government schools. What that programme does, it captures all our students in government schools. And we are encouraging the private schools to jump on board and take advantage of the OpenEmu Software, because what this does is it presents the opportunity to capture the students who are really and truly out of school,” she noted.
She continued: “When schools opened in September, there were many persons on social media, indicating that a large number of students are out of school, and then wanted us to act immediately.
“But what happened is that we need to ensure whether these students were really out of school. But because the data is not readily available, we weren’t able to address it at that time.
“But I want to say that, since we know that 200-and-60-something children were on the waiting list, we had done our homework, because we do have an education officer with responsibility for private schools. And so therefore, our list today is 60-something students.”
Taylor told the show that it is paramount that government ensures that all students in the Turks and Caicos Islands are in school.
“Based on the Convention of the Rights of a Child, we are actually responsible for all primary school students, and we have a moral responsibility for the high school,” she said, adding that the government has found that there were students that cannot be admitted into schools because of birth certificate issues.
“…Because you need that birth certificate to register. So, we talked about it in our cabinet meeting, and Hon. Otis Morris will be addressing the situation with regards to birth certificates. We are putting mechanisms in place to ensure that our children benefit from education and the birth certificate will not hinder them,” she pledged.
Green, who chimed in on the birth certificate issue, reminded that it is important for the Turks and Caicos population to know that one has an automatic right to a birth certificate whether or not there was an outstanding payment.
Green, who is Director for the Human Rights Commission, said her office had to clear up the matter with the Birth Registry and the Hospital some time ago.
“As long as the birth returns are sent to the registry the individual has an automatic right to get that birth certificate,” Green informed.
Taylor also revealed that the government had advanced plans to return the Clement Howell High School to its full capacity, while upgrading the Louise Garland Thomas High School into a full-fledged high school.
“That would open up the opportunity (for more students to be admitted into high schools on Providenciales) because we have a lot of empty seats at the Clement Howell High School”, she said, noting that when these measures are put in place, the space shortage should plummet.
“We have completed our Cabinet Paper, and so, that would be taken to cabinet,” she said.
Taylor added: “We have given Cabinet the various options, because instead of having it done in its entirety for the entire year in 2022, we are looking at a staggering phase.”
She pointed that the second phase of the Thelma Lightbourne Primary School on Providenciales will complete in 2023, adding that her ministry successfully made representation for an early childhood wing to be constructed at the Enid Capron Primary School, which she said should accommodate an additional 150 students.