Minister, Fatou Lamin Faye
Students attending a class
Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education
Willy Thorpe Building
Deeper Life Upper Basic and Senior Secondary School
Dear Honourable Minister and Principal,
REQUEST FOR AN IMMEDIATE RE-OPENING OF DEEPER LIFE LOWER BASIC; UPPER BASIC AND SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL.
I write to you jointly as I believe my request requires urgent action from both of you. I am driven and motivated by genuine concerns as a father to solicit your intervention as per captioned. My children and that of others continued to be stranded at home for more than a week as the gates of their schools remain closed. Albeit I was not asked by any of the hundreds of parents who continually wait in limbo to see what the future holds for their children’s education, I have no iota of doubt that my concerns and fears echo theirs too.
I understood that the Ministry of Education closed Deeper Life schools due to lack of compliance. Common sense teaches that for any business to prosper and realise its goals, it must operate within the ambits of law-a private school is no exception.
True, the Principal, according to the information I gathered, was repeatedly warned and requested by the ministry to roll up his sleeve to comply with government and the Ministry’s regulations and requirements. What actually led to the unceremonious closure of the schools was the failure of the Principal to permit the teaching of religious education particularly Islamic studies. This regulation has been around for as long as I can remember as a little boy. As a child, I went to Catholic schools and I had the benefit of been taught my religion despite the fact that the schools were largely financed by Catholic Mission. Coming from a village, I have seen what this single law had done to change provincial Gambians perception of education. Parents who were initially suspicious and reluctant to send their kids to ‘’the white man’s school’’ began allowing them to be educated in “the White man schools” because it availed them the opportunity of learning Islam. Granted that it is now in history, I wonder if there is any parent in the Gambia today whose choice of sending his/her child to school is motivated by the fact that they can learn Islam in school or by the quality of Islamic teaching in the school. Suffice it to say, parents make other arrangements to compliment efforts of formal schools to augment the religious education of their children.
Mr Principal, four children from my family are going to your school. We believed making that choice for our children was one of the best we did for them. Their performance is very good and we appreciate the quality of teaching in your school. However, if you are guilty as charged that you stubbornly refused to comply with the Ministry’s regulation, you not only let your students and their parents down but also tarnished the teaching profession. Furthermore, you have not made any attempt to engage parents and inform them of the issues surrounding your schools closure or better still what steps have you taken to resolve the dilemma.
It is gratifying to note my position here is to neither apportion blame nor articulate for the teaching of Islam in schools but to find an amicable solution which foster the interest of the innocent students caught up in the crossfire.
Honourable Minister, I am a strong believer of just and fair crises management. I agreed that Deeper Life administration/management deserves to be punished for lack of compliance; however, I have reservation on the choice of punishment and its timing in particular. As a parent, I feel the closure of the school punishes the students instead of its administration. A school fails to comply with a law/standard for over a decade and as a punishment the kids get denied their education. I am aware that this may not have been the intention but the consequence is so obvious that it could not have been missed when the decision was made.
The schools have been closed for over a week and to this day I am not aware that the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education have made any attempt to help place the children in other schools. I am rather confused and appalled by this miscalculated decision on your part as a Ministry. On the one hand, the Ministry cares about the children’s Islamic education so much that you have to close the school for its failure to comply with regulation while on the other you failed short in providing the same children you so much care about means to continue their education without hitch. Efforts should be made to place these innocent children in other schools to continue their education until a viable and permanent solution is reached between you and the school administration.
It is my fervent believe that you are alert and conscious of the fact that some of the children that are currently deprived from going to school are sitting to Grade 9 exams in just about three months’ time – my child being one of them. While I have not consulted any parent in my shoes before writing this, I am sure each of them is extremely anxious with the passing of each day that their child is missing classes as their exams draw closer.
I, therefore, urge both of you to do your part to urgently open the gates of the schools so that the children of our nation can get back to the classroom. We need full and immediate commitment from Deeper Life and the Ministry to allow the school to reopen immediately. As a Gambian parent, I would find it a lot more acceptable if the final warning was given to the school at the end of an academic year and parents informed that the school will not be allowed to operate after the summer while it remains noncompliant.
The current situation is grossly unacceptable and requires immediate remedy! It is not the enforcement of compliance that I have an issue with but the way the crisis has been handled. The ministry has a duty to enforce compliance…. However, it is fair for any Gambian parent and child to expect that in enforcing that compliance every step is taken to ensure that the education of tomorrow’s leaders is not compromised by those of today.
While counting on your immediate and amicable resolution of this disturbing circumstance, please accept my highest consideration.
Momodou P Bah