By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
TWENTY-FIVE parents held a demonstration outside a Cat Island high school on Friday to protest a reported "teacher shortage" at the school.
Videos of the demonstration have since gone viral on social media, with participants holding signs and shouting slogans such as "Send more teachers" and "It's not the people's time because the people are hurting!"
The demonstration was organised by the Parent Teacher Association of the Arthur'sTown High School after the school lost three teachers and a guidance counsellor at the end of last semester. None of these faculty members has been replaced for this school year, The Tribune was told.
Acting Principal Veronica Bain told The Tribune yesterday that while no teachers participated in the demonstration, there is a shortage; noting the school lost its religious knowledge, Spanish, and art teachers as well as its guidance counsellor.
Ms Bain added that the school has a population of 46 students and now has a total of seven teachers and two itinerant or temporary teachers at the school.
Education Minister Jeff Lloyd yesterday denied there was a shortage.
When asked about the demonstration, Mr Lloyd told The Tribune: "The school in question…has 47 students and 10 teachers. Does that sound like a shortage to you? One to four, five (students). Nassau (has a ratio of) one to 37, 38, 39, 40 (students). Grand Bahama, same thing.
"There's no shortage. Now some people may be unhappy for whatever reason they're unhappy. But they can't blame it on the shortage…47 students, 10 teachers. At another school, (there are) 70 students, 13 teachers," Mr Lloyd said.
However, according to Ms Bain, three faculty members were transferred out of the school and one retired. She added the school has requested that the Ministry of Education send more teachers to replace them, but received no direct response, adding that the matter was referred to the district superintendent.
"There is a teacher shortage," Ms Bain said. "We're short of four persons and we have a population of 46 students. And we're short of a (religious knowledge) teacher, Spanish teacher as well as the art teacher and the guidance counselor."
When asked how the issue has been affecting the students, Ms Bain expressed concern on how it could affect their exam scores.
"Well, the school is really not settled yet," Ms Bain said. "Most of the students were preparing for those exams in the areas like for RK (religious knowledge) as well as Spanish. And a lot of them did the exam in grade 8 (and) now they're hoping to do it in grade nine to do a better grade.
"And so…now they're going to get the full complement of the three years or supposed to have had the full complement of the three years in order to do it, they expected to have a better grade. And so with them those teachers in that area, their chances are a bit slim."
PTA president Diane Knowles participated in Friday's demonstration. Ms Knowles said a lack of teachers has been a persistent problem on the island going back decades.
"And so we just decided, well hey, you know what, enough is enough. We're just going to go and demonstrate," she told The Tribune yesterday.
"But before we even demonstrated, we (sought) the assistance of the district superintendent for Cat Island…and also we wrote to the director and to the minister of education, and everybody seemed to just ignore us.
"It wasn't until we actually went out and did a demonstration that they start calling and they're still not giving us any answer as to when this problem is going to be solved."