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Gopeesingh: It's not my call

By Julien Neaves

EDUCATION Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said it was not within his jurisdiction to contact Tunapuna Hindu Primary School principal Sita Gajadharsingh-Nanga about the reason for her absence from school, but noted that his technical officers and Permanent Secretary would be contacting her for not turning out to school since Tuesday.

He was speaking with the media on Wednesday following the opening session of a Local Government consultation at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Port of Spain.

Asked whether he was concerned about her absence Gopeesingh replied: "Well of course, you are always concerned (if) a principal of a school doesn't turn up." He said there might be reasons and "extenuating circumstances" that may come to the "forefront".

"So I don't know what has happened or what is the reason for her absence but from the agreement that we signed that she is the principal of the Hindu School," he said.

He was referring to the eight point agreement implemented to settle an ongoing conflict between Gajadharsingh-Nanga and the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) board which, among other things, allowed for the principal to return to the school after being blocked by the board and the PTA.

Gopeesingh said the agreement specifically stated that the principal would not face any "irregularity" at the school and if there is a breach of the agreement "we will have to deal with the situation".

The Minister expressed hope that things "will run smoothly" and noted that the Permanent Secretary sent a letter to the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) on Tuesday morning on the request for transfer for the principal to another school.

He noted there had been similar incidents of conflict between a denominational board and school staff. He said the relationship between the Concordat and the Education Ministry needed to be looked at, pointing out that it is the denominational boards that choose principals, teachers, heads of departments and deans and the Ministry has "very little authority" in that area.

He noted that he would be looking at the 1961 Concordat to see whether there was need to re-focus it but there were difficult issues that needed to be "ironed out".

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