AWRIGHT DEN!: Not responsible
MY WIFE AND I always try our best to attend all parent-teacher association (PTA) meetings as well as form level meetings for our children.
Attending PTA meetings gives us the opportunity to receive new information, network with other parents, be able to speak to the principal and any teachers present, and also ask questions.
When my daughter first entered school (Government primary school), we were given its handbook, which contained information about the school, the dress code, its rules, etcetera. While reading the book, I stumbled on something that puzzled me and I waited patiently for the right opportunity to raise it at a PTA meeting, which I did a few weeks ago.
Within the book, it stated that the school is not responsible for my child before 8:30 a.m. or after 3 p.m. When the principal opened the floor for questions, I asked her to shed some light on this.
She said that according to the Education Act, teachers’ hours are 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. and they cannot be forced to work outside those hours. She can ask them to stay a little longer after school, and if they do, it is a favour and not an obligation. I understand the inconvenience this would cause for parents, and some schools offer before and after-hours care for a small donation, but that is up to the school.
Parents ask for the care and then don’t want to pay the small fee. One parent commented that there was a specific teacher they saw heading through the gate a few minutes after the bell rung. The principal explained to the gentleman that after 3 p.m., teachers are free to leave and we must appreciate that some teachers are attending evening classes and would also have their children to pick up.
I am privileged to have my girls taken to school for 8:30 a.m. each day and picked up at 3 p.m. by my father-in-law. I am grateful for this, but I constantly think about how other parents who don’t have this privilege get through.
Since the school isn’t responsible for children before 8:30 a.m., it means that a parent who doesn’t have someone to take their child to school for them will definitely get to work late, once they are to report by 8:30 a.m. Similarly, if their children are to be picked up by 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m., it means they will have to leave work to do such.
When I think about the number of parents who have children in nursery and primary school, it leaves me to wonder: 1) how many parents get to work late; 2) how many parents leave work after 2:15 p.m. to pick up their children; 3) how many parents leave their children unsupervised on the school property; 4) how many businesses and offices’ productivity and operations are affected by parents arriving late or leaving during work hours; and 5) how many parents know that the school isn’t responsible before and after these hours.
When I was a pupil at Wesley Hall Primary and Junior, there was a lady who lived opposite the school. Her name was “Aunt Vi” and she would provide a before and after-school service, which my brother and I attended. Some schools offer such a facility and I think it is something that more schools should think about and discuss with their boards of management.
Sometime back, I drove past a primary school around 7:30 a.m. and saw at least 15 to 20 children standing and sitting outside the gate because it was locked. There was no shelter from the sun or the rain, neither was there a safe place the pupils could wait away from the passing traffic.
Having done some investigating, I learnt that the individual who provides the before and after-schoolcare on the school property, charges as little as $20 a month. There was a time I had to take my daughter to school early and I think I paid $2 for the before-school care. She was able to watch a suitable children’s movie, eat her breakfast and settle with friends before the start of school.
Parents, I encourage you at your next PTA meeting to discuss with the principal the possibility of the before and after-school care.
• Corey Worrell, a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, is director of C2J Foundation Inc., a project-based NGO focusing on social development. Email: [email protected]