Screen_shot_2013-10-23_at_8.23.35_PMYesterday as a few parents of Paraiso Government School tried to take their children out of class in solidarity with the National School boycott spearheaded by BelizeCan Patriots, police was called in by the management of the school. One particular parent was informed that it was a criminal offence to pull her children out of class while it was in session. President of BelizeCan, Patrick Menzies claimed that there is no law in the education act that impedes parents from taking their children out of school once the session has begun.  But apparently there is and there is a fine also for breaking the regulation. This is according to District Education Manager for Corozal, Jahmor Lopez.

 

Jahmor Lopez – Corozal District Education Manager


“I need to make reference to our education and training act of 2010 which stipulates the roles and responsibilities of parents and according to the act this is not something that we are making up, it is a part of the constitution that a parent or a guardian who is responsible for a child age 5 to 14 is mandated by law to send that child to school.  Once a child is in school that child then becomes the responsibility of that school, there procedures in schools that are also mandated by law to maintain and manage records and so if a child is already at school more than likely at call in time if it is 9 o’clock or 8:30 and attendance will be taken and if the child is present the child will be marked present and so it means then that the child if he is there for the morning session should be there for the duration of the morning session or the afternoon session, I find it interested that the parent or guardian sent his/her child to school and all of a sudden now the parent is saying I don’t want my child to be in school, yes as the parent as the guardian that is your child, that is your ward you should be able to go into school and make a request to take your child out but there is procedures, decision is made that you want your child out, you cannot barge on to the school compound and take out your child because it can amount to abduction and I don’t want people to take this out of context, am saying that because the school is culpable and I will use you as an example , you barged on to the school compound and you go there and you grab your daughter and you go with her, the attendance register was already taken she is present, your wife comes in the afternoon or in the evening “estoy buscando a mi hija” and the register will show that she was present but there is present but there is not documentation that you took her and someone may say oh daddy took her and he carry her, what we are mandating is that if you want to take your child out, that you sign a document to say I am taking my child out and you state the reason.  We need documentation and we need to be accountable for this because if I go to those schools or my officer as ministry officials and we enquire about let say absences of a number of students and we are told oh well the parents came where is the documentation, where is the evidence and so we are preparing guidelines that parents and our school community, in terms of our management authority and principal that they need to follow and it is to protect themselves, you see the good Lord forbids that a bad thing would happen but if a child is in the care of the school community on the compound, marks present and then something happens to that child outside you know who they will blame, they will blame the school, they will blame the school and so we need to look at protecting ourselves to ensure that we are accountable.”


According to Lopez, if parents are unable to comply with the regulations and fail to follow the necessary procedures they are liable to a fine.


Jahmor Lopez – Corozal District Education Manager


“I am going to quote to you the rule, it is coming from rule 61(3) and it says here that; if the parent of a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to take effective measures to ensure the regular attendance of his child, he commits an offense, it is not me dreaming that, it is coming from the handbook of policies, it is coming from the education and training act of 2010 and in rule 62 (1) continues and it says; every parent, that includes guardian as well who (a) fails to comply with the requirement of a school attendance, order made under section 60 or (b) fails to take effective measures to ensure the regular attendance of his child as required by sections 59 and 61 that I just read it says commits and offence and it is liable on a summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars, there is also another provision where it says and I am reading from rule 65(3) it says that a member of the police department shall when called by a school community liaison officer or persons duly authorized by the chief education officer render such assistance as such officer may need in the performance of his functions under this act and so our school liaison officer is Mr Pablo Gonzales and I say that if Mr Gonzales is being obstructed in carrying out his duties and his responsibilities, it also says that the person commits an offence and is liable to a summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars.”


While the decision to keep their children at home or not ultimately lies on the parents Lopez stressed that there are consequences when it comes to depriving a child from his or her education.


Jahmor Lopez – Corozal District Education Manager


“There is the excuse that we are in protest of the gender policy and I will not say anything in further to that but what I will say is that to caution parents that if this is their decision understand that the law mandates as well, that you are responsible for providing home-schooling and that is something that has to be done through the chief education officer, there is also the other issue of first term coming up, report cards will be prepared by November so what will happen to those students that are absent, who are not doing the requisite assessment evaluation so many things are happening right now because of  emotions but I believe that our parents need to look at the bigger picture, this is about our children in terms of their education and I need to state on record here that the education act also mandates that what is taught in schools is the responsibility of the managing authority, the ministry provides a national curriculum which is a guide and individual schools are to take that curriculum and tailor it to their own specific needs and so if people have any concerns about concepts being taught that they don’t agree with then that is a matter that they can take to the managing authority, the ministry is not mandating anything and so I believe that there is a whole lot of miss-information.”


When we questioned Lopez as to how students would be affected if the National Shutdown goes through, he preferred not to comment on the issue. CTV3 News understands that 90% of the student population in the entire Corozal District attended classes today.

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