PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport Silveria Jacobs in Wednesday’s, July 5, Council of Ministers Press Briefing addressed “the recent blow-up at the NIPA institution.”
According to Minister Jacobs, “Officially I have received an update from the board as to what the recent incident is about, but before I go into that I would like to state that the institute is currently going through the process of getting the latest courses that they have promised for August/September school year, to start new courses vetted by the Ministry.”
“They have submitted these courses to be vetted to be able to be offered. This is the usual process for new courses. The department and Inspection have received them and there are more to come. The inspection has also, in prior press briefings, given recommendations and those are being carried out by the institution to make sure that it is meeting the need and continuing to grow. The exam period is currently on. All of the exams have been submitted prior, and had to be vetted by an Exam Committee, including what the answers, etc., should be, and so the students are taking exams this week, whether they have their own teachers in front of them or not. All exams will be continuing and all students are expected to focus on their priority, which is doing their best on their exams,” the Minister stated.
According to Minister Jacobs, “There was a complaint brought forward to the board pertaining to inappropriate messages and other stuff on social media in a group chat in which a teacher of the school was involved with the students. So this came via a parent. It was dealt with. An incident report was made and submitted to the board. The board then proceeded to involve the teacher in question, in defending the statements brought against her, as her involvement as a responsible teacher and gave her the opportunity to present a defense in this case.”
“As a result of this, and the way the teacher allegedly behaved, after giving her defense, she e-mailed on Sunday her resignation from the school and handed it in on Monday at 10:00am. It was received. Later on Monday, the board received a call from distraught members at the school who had been threatened and intimidated by said teacher. As a result the board took the decision, and also based on prior reports of aggressive behavior from said teacher, the board took the decision to put the teacher, who had handed in a resignation, which was supposed to start on July 8, they decided, as a board, to put her on inactive duty with pay, and deny her access to the school’s grounds,” Minister Jacobs continued.
“The main reason was to avoid further escalation of any negativity, which could hamper the students, who are at this time doing their exams, reminding you that in my earlier statements that the exams have been vetted and are registered with the school so the school has all the exams. As a result, the teacher was also informed via an email to her on Tuesday morning, and still showed up at the school where she was informed by the security that her access was being denied. She proceeded to then call the students from her class, who came out to meet her and they escorted her in. At no point was she stopped physically from entering, but she did mention to the Security at the gate that if anyone attempted to stop her that she would be prepared to defend herself. The Security seeing the situation as per his instructions not being the way it was supposed to be, called his Central Dispatch, who sent a Supervisor to the school. The Supervisor spoke to the teacher. The teacher did not leave, at which point the Security may have called the police. The board at no time called the police,” the Minister further explained.
“The management, once the police arrived at the school, they did call the Board and the board told them that they would handle it internally, and the police left. At no point was there any police altercation between the police and the teacher in question. This is the report I am receiving from the board. So as such, management has been informed of what took place, a parent also came forward later that day with a complaint about whether the tests would be counted or not. And the board explained, and the management explained, that all exams have been vetted, all exams will be carried out and to safeguard the integrity of the tests, the Committee will be the ones to be checking on the grading, etc., of these tests and the entering of the scores,” Minister Jacobs continued.
“All the exams will count. Again I am asking the students in the interest of your own education to focus on studying for your exams, taking your exams in a calm spirit and mind, because the events surrounding your teacher have absolutely nothing to do with you. The school is doing what they can do to secure your future in making sure that the integrity and not only the ability, but the integrity also of the teachers are in line with what we are trying to impart at the school,” she said.
“As Minister of Education, I am also in contact with the Inspectorate, who informed me this morning, in an unrelated meeting that some students as well as a teacher did come to the department this morning, to make a complaint. Because I’d been asked by the media on whether I had received any complaints prior, which I have stated here adamantly that I have not received any, and to my knowledge I hadn’t been aware of any that Inspection had received,” the Minister stated.
“Inspection confirmed to me this morning that today is the first day that they have come to the department. That upon my request the Inspection Department had gone to NIPA, had spoken to teachers, management and staff, concerning the incident several weeks or months before, and that no actual letter as such had been given to them at that point. They had discussed what the students’ concerns were, what the teachers’ concerns were, and had presented us with a report with recommendations, as well as presented it to the board,” Minister Jacobs informed.
“For us, it is very, very, important that the negativity that is being surrounded by innuendo, rumors or actual happenings, to one or more persons does not affect the entire school. When we are doing these types of things, we must try to understand what is a long-term effect. Several students who attend NIPA have no other options and showing this negative light on it gives students the opportunity to say ‘oh, I’m not going there.’ If there are no students, then there is also no money to pay teachers. So it has a circle effect. If we cannot attract students to a school that is giving them an opportunity to earn a degree, a diploma in a skill that they love, that may be able to join the workforce, then we are losing the goal of this institution,” Minister Jacobs stated.
“This institution has been moving forward. It has had several setbacks, but based on the reports that I’ve received from Inspection and from the management and board, I am seeing progress in terms of them doing what is necessary to secure the proper instructors to make sure that the curriculum is covered, because that’s not a part of the management’s job that a board has to supervise, and when we start to question whether this person should be let go, or that person should be let go, then you’re treading on grounds where you have to get into the nitty gritty of details that may not necessarily be appropriate for the setting,” the Minister continued.
“I would have loved to avoid going into the details of this case, but it does seem as if only one side of the story is being told, which is totally unfair to the institution. The rest of the students and the management, and the rest of the teachers are all moving forward to continue to give the students what they need, and it is a goal that these students pass their exams with integrity, not pass their exams just because they are there. We want to be able to say that the diploma they earn is a valuable diploma, and so we are holding them accountable to cover the courses that they have to cover, as Inspection and as Education Department, because based on that, is how the subsidy is expended. That is where the power of the Minister stands,” she further said.
“We can withhold funding or we can continue to step up recommendations in order to maintain funding, and that is what we’re doing and that is what we will continue to do,” the Minister informed.