KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — The children of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves have come in for unfair treatment at school, especially at the Girls’ High School (GHS), Gonsalves said in a July 5 letter to the editor of The Vincentian newspaper.
Among other things, Gonsalves wrote the letter — “as a parent (Ralph Gonsalves simpliciter, not Prime Minister)” — to explain his query a last month to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education “regarding the sanctioned rules, if any, under which students at the GHS or any other secondary school in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are awarded zero in internal examinations in a paper for the infringement of possessing a cell-phone in the exam room”.
The letter was written in connection to GHS examination rules that sawGonsalves’15-year-old daughter Soleil receive a “zero” because her cellphone rang during an exam.
Gonsalves has since said that education official had not sanctioned the rules and, in the letter, reaffirmed his “right as a parent to ask questions of the educational authorities on any matter touching and concerning my daughter’s education”.
“Lots of people would not believe the pressure which my children, especially my daughters, have had to endure at schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, especially at GHS, often from some teachers who have acted unprofessionally towards them because of the jaundiced politics of these teachers,” Gonsalves said.
He said that he has had to teach his children to be strong but did not demand nor require any special treatment for them.
“But they ought never to be disadvantaged because of who their father is. It is wrong. And it is wrong of those who choose to go public with jaundiced views and untruths on a matter in which I have acted properly as a parent,” Gonsalves said.
He said that in schools in SVG, “‘teachable moments’ are too easily turned into ‘disciplinary moments’.
“Does any serious educator think that such a ‘turning’ helps anyone? Education requires discipline but it is not a power relationship of any kind. It ought to be about developing creative, fully-rounded, skilled personalities fit to receive and transmit universal culture, with a Caribbean particularity,” he said.
Gonsalves, a former professor, said that at school, “students must never feel that they are entering a hostile or combative environment,” adding, “All teachers, administrators, and parents ought to bear this in mind.”
He said that if his query about what transpired with his daughter “causes the Ministry [of Education], in conjunction with all secondary schools, to fashion and sanction viable rules for cellphones in exams, the pain which my daughter and I have endured on this issue would have been worth it.
“This matter is much larger than my daughter, but I would be a strange, dysfunctional person if I were to be deeply moved about the welfare of 30,000 students (primary, secondary, post-secondary and special) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in my capacity as Prime Minister, yet show no concern as a father for my daughter! And in this matter I have acted properly and reasonably! Shame on all those who chose to traduce and vilify me on a matter in which I have done no wrong. Frankly, these people need to grow up,” Gonsalves said.