Penal couple contemplate legal action over son’s school transfer

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A Penal couple is contemplating legal action after their son was denied a transfer to a secondary school in Barrackpore although they received a letter from the principal confirming the child’s place.

The couple, who asked to remain anonymous, fearing any possible backlash for speaking out, had their attorney issue a preaction protocol letter to the Education Ministry on September 6, a day after the school year started.

The boy sat the 2022 Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam and was assigned to a secondary school in Siparia.

The couple’s attorney Jeevan Rampersad said his clients wanted a transfer for their son to a school closer to home. They were advised to visit the school they wanted and to speak to the principal there.

The attorney said his clients were told there were ten available spaces at the Barrackpore school, so they registered their son and received confirmation from a senior official there.

Thinking their son had a place at the school, his parents paid the relevant registration fees and bought schoolbooks and uniforms.

He also went to orientation at the new school. It was then the parents were asked to meet with school officials and were told their son had not been properly registered. He said 30 other students had found themselves in the same position.

The boy’s father told Newsday it was explained that a senior school official was allegedly accepting payment for transfers, and the ministry was investigating the claims.

But the boy’s father was adamant he paid no money other than to buy school supplies for his son.

“This is what I was told, But I cannot say if that is true or not. I was advised to do the paperwork, and was assured my son was accepted in the new school,” the boy’s father told Newsday.

He said he was told the transfer would happen, but a week into the term, he had heard nothing, and registered his son at the school he was assigne tod.

The boy started school there on Monday.

His father said he had had to spend thousands of dollars to buy uniforms and books for two schools.

He said they applied for the transfer because it would require his son to take three taxis to reach the assigned school, when the other one was close to home.

“We would have to spend more than $60 in travelling for one day.”

His son, he said, was depressed.

“He is feeling like no one wants him, like he failed, and that is the hurtful part.

“I am not blaming the school or the ministry, but we need answers.”

He is hoping his son does eventually get the transfer.

In the letter, Rampersad said his clients adhered to the registration process and expressed concern that the boy “will suffer a detriment” as he was unable to start his secondary education on September 5.

He asked for an investigation and for the boy to be formally offered a place at the school.

Last Wednesday, the ministry responded to the letter, saying records at the ministry revealed the boy was assigned to a secondary school in Siparia, and it had no record of a request for a transfer.

The ministry said there was clear guidance to parents who wanted to apply for a transfer for their child and the SEA booklet, which sets out the procedure, was available on the ministry’s website.

It also said a student had to be registered at the assigned secondary school before being considered for a transfer.

The ministry’s director of legal services, Avril Rahim, also advised the parents to complete their child’s registration at his assigned school “as a matter of urgency.”

Rahim said the ministry was investigating the allegations of fraud and would take action, which could include making a report to the police.