22 African children in school — Sat

At a press conference yesterday, Maharaj said the school was located in a predominantly East Indian catchment area, that it was a Hindu school, and so it was natural that more East Indians would attend the school.

“It is a total lie that I told her (school principal Sita Gajadharsingh Nanga) not to admit Africans.

“If you go to a school in Laventille, it is most likely you would not see an Indian child. If you go to a school like the Felicity Hindu Primary School, you will not see an African child. It is the catchment, that is it.

“Once there is a vacancy at the school, anyone can come. “All this race talk is political propaganda as (Opposition Leader Keith) Rowley puts his foot in his mouth every time he opens it,” Maharaj said.

He said out of the 516 students registered at the school 22 were Africans, 456 were East Indians, and 36 were of mixed decent.

“The school opened in November 1952 and the first child to be registered was Afro-Trinidadian, Earnest Smith, who eventually became the principal of the Tunapuna Secondary School,” he said.

Maharaj accused the People’s National Movement (PNM) of political interference in the dismissal of the Gajadharsingh Nanga.

On Wednesday night, PNM MP Patricia McIntosh, speaking in the House of Representatives at Tower D, Waterfront Complex, Port-of-Spain, charged that the Maha Sabha has sought to deny equal opportunities to pupils of different denominations, particularly black children who reside within the catchment area.

McIntosh quoted from a letter written by Gajadharsingh Nanga applying for a transfer from the school to another primary school.

Minister of Education, Dr Tim Gopeesingh, in response, told the Parliament that Gajadharsingh Nanga’s letter was not placed properly before the Teaching Service Commission.

He said the principal did write a letter to the TSC in June requesting a transfer, and in in which she made numerous allegations about the SDMS.

“The letter was only copied to the School Supervisor III, no one else at the Ministry. It must be made through the board to the Permanent Secretary. This was not done; as such the issue of a transfer is not properly before the Commission,” Gopeesingh said.

Meanwhile, Maharaj also said the SDMS does have the authority to dismiss, hire and discipline staff but that it must inform the TSC about any decision it makes in relation to any member of its teaching staff.

Maharaj produced copies of correspondence between the SDMS and the TSC. He said Gajadharsingh Nanga was dismissed for breaching a number of regulations of the SDMS.

He said her dismissal prevented a possible violent confrontation on the school’s compound.

“Because there was a possibility of violence on the school compound, I issued a letter to the principal asking her to report to the St George East Educational Office at the opening of the school year.

“I told her to get further instructions from the school supervisor. Parents were not happy over a number of things she was doing, particularly charging parents a registration fee,” Maharaj said.

He claimed Gajadharsingh Nanga charged parents a registration fee of approximately $150 and without issuing a receipt.

“For two years she charged a registration fee for the school. This is illegal and she should have been on suspension pending investigations,” he charged.

Maharaj also accused Gajadharsingh Nanga of not conforming to the school’s dress codes, of withholding books and of hindering the carrying out of infrastructural works on the school’s compound.

“I saw her panty lines and when it was brought to her attention, instead of dressing more modestly, she removed the dress code sign from the school’s compound,” he claimed.

Maharaj also charged that Gajadharsingh Nanga stood in the way of the building of a temple on the school’s grounds and allowed the school to fall in a state of disrepair.

He also claimed that despite repeated requests, Gajadharsingh Nanga failed to account for school funds and did not distribute Ministry of Education-provided text books to the students.

President of the school’s Parent Teacher’s Association (PTA), Ishwar Mootoo said the supervisor assigned to the school failed in his duty to the school in allowing the principal to do as she liked.

Mootoo claimed parents were “satisfied” with the acting principal of the school, who was formerly the vice-principal.


"22 African children in school — Sat"

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