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Ministry to probe school boards without student representation

Published:Monday | April 4, 2016 | 12:00 AMAndre Poyser

Minister of state, in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Floyd Green, said he will be seeking to get an official list of those school boards that do not have a student representative sitting on them.

"I think that is unacceptable. We will have to go into the schools and get a list to see which schools don't have and see what are the exact problems," Green told The Gleaner.

He was reacting to revelations from National Secondary Students' Council (NSSC) President Everton Rattray that 40 per cent of school boards are without student representation, according to a 2015 audit of NSSC member schools.

"Where a group is formed and no student representative is sitting on the board ... they should be sitting on the board, and myself and Minister Reid will be having that discussion at the highest level of the school administrators to ensure that happens ... . So we are going to have to do some digging, verify the numbers, and if it is 40 per cent, we have to reduce that number," Green added.

The Education Act provides for the election of a student representative to the school board by a student council body.

Rattray had further revealed that of the 60 per cent of schools with representation, only 30 per cent of them have student representatives who are actively involved in decision making at the school board level.

"For most of the boards, the students are just there in the sense that they are just there for space because it's the protocol, it's the formality of the thing where you have to have a student on the board. So what we are trying to do is increase the students' understanding of what is required of them when they sit on the school board, through our training programme at the national level," Rattray explained to The Gleaner.


Culture of tokenism


For Rattray, the fact that students are often not allowed to participate in school board decisions reflects a culture of tokenism in regards to youth issues.

"I look forward to the minister's announcement that they are looking to improve this in terms of changing the culture. It's not an overnight change in culture, but we are looking forward to that change that will see the improvement in youth representation, youth involvement, and it not being a tokenistic approach," Rattray said.

Green, in addressing the issues of active participation of students on school boards, said: "I think training is very important because we have to ensure that the student council representatives, even when they go on the boards, that they are contributing in a real effective way."