Jamaat writes PM on schools
Thursday, July 5 2012
INTERIM leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen Lorris Ballack has written to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar calling on her to intervene as he fears the sect’s primary and secondary schools may be forced to close its doors permanently because of money woes.
In his letter, dated yesterday, Ballack said the Madressa al Muslimeen schools have been registered as private schools with the Ministry of Education, and has, for the past 20 years, sought to change its status to “assisted,” which will allow it to receive the support as prescribed by the Concordat.
He said other denominational schools receive financial support from the State under the Concordat.
Ballack, at the commission of enquiry into the 1990 attempted coup in January, bemoaned the lack of support for the schools by the education authorities. He said the sect could not afford to pay their teachers, who were not paid by the Ministry of Education, despite being denominational institutions.
The Muslimeen’s teachers have not been paid since March, and Ballack says there is the real possibility that they will seek employment elsewhere if they do not receive their outstanding salaries.
“The school will automatically be unable to be reopened in the next academic year,” he lamented.
In his letter, the Muslimeen’s interim leader spoke of a meeting with Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, five months ago, at which the minister promised to resolve the issue of funding with expediency.
Ballack told the Prime Minister, Gopeesingh agreed that the outstanding arrears owed to TTEC and WASA would be paid. However, he noted that representatives of both utilities have visited the schools to disconnect the electricity supply, while WASA debt collectors have enquired as to the ownership of the land.
Ballack also noted that the minister assured assistance will be provided for teachers and that there would be retroactive payments from September 2011, once approved by Cabinet.
“Five months on, none of these promises has been fulfilled ... The ministry, contrary to public policy, has not acknowledged one letter of correspondence,” he said.
He pointed out that funding was recently given to the tune of $1 million to ASJA for their Educational Complex in Charlieville.
“This calls into question the criteria used for this handsome donation since ASJA’s schools are already benefitting under the 1960 Concordat whereby the Government pays their teachers’ salaries, utilities and maintenance expenses,” he said.
Ballack, in his letter, noted the academic year had come to an end and despite contacting the ministry on a weekly basis, they are still in the dark as to whether the promised assistance will be forthcoming.
“Planning for the new academic year seems like an exercise in futility with the clouds of uncertainty hovering above,” he said.
Ballack questioned whether this was a “deliberate plot and carefully thought out plan” to close the Muslimeen’s schools.
In pleading with the Prime Minister to assist their plight, Ballack said failing to do so will affect more than 200 children, who are currently enrolled at the schools.