A DISMAL turnout of pupils at the nation's schools for Ash Wednesday yesterday is part of a "worrisome trend" and a symptom of the "party" and "cool down" mentality of parents, says vice-president of Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Davanand Sinanan.
"The notion of 'cool down' is really sending a bad example to the nation's youths," he said.
Sinanan reported that at Belmont Secondary there were 40 out of 48 teachers and 40 out of 455 students; at Fyzabad Secondary there were 63 out of 99 teachers and 91 out of 675 students; at Biche Presbyterian Primary School there were five out of seven teachers and 19 out of 100 students; and at Pleasantville Primary School there were 12 out of 16 teachers and 56 out of 290 students.
"The teachers are out, but where are the children?" he asked rhetorically.
Sinanan explained that keeping children away from school was a culture that had developed and it was not "desirable".
"It seems to be a very worrisome trend that has developed over the last decade or so.
"This is the problem that we have and this is what we have been trying to educate parents about, the importance of sending children to school Ash Wednesday and the rest of the week," he added.
Sinanan said it was not sending the right message for the future of the nation and it had implications for national productivity.
He noted that he was "all for having fun, but we have to know when to stop".
"The party is over, the fun is over. We are supposed to get down to serious work. We have to take stock of this development and make a concerted effort to tell parents when to stop partying."
Sinanan stressed this "permanent party mind set" has to be changed and it was the parents who are encouraging the children to miss school. He noted that the absenteeism of pupils usually continues for the rest of the week.
He explained that what compounded the problem was ten years ago when an extra week of vacation was given for Carnival due to a miscalculation of vacation the previous years.
"Since that time everyone seems to think (the entire Carnival week) is vacation. We have not been able to come out of that mode (since) then."
He called on the national community to reassess the party culture and the deleterious effect it was having on national productivity and stressed that it was not "something desirable for a serious country".
He noted that the longer the country takes to do this the worse problem of poor student attendance will get.
The Ministry of Education was also collecting statistics on school attendance yesterday but the Express did not receive it up to press time.