Mon | Sep 25, 2023

Student barred from online classes for uniform breach

Published:Friday | October 8, 2021 | 12:09 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
Samoya Farquharson says she has been frequently barred from online classes because of a lack of uniform.
Samoya Farquharson says she has been frequently barred from online classes because of a lack of uniform.

The family of an eighth-grade student at Tacky High has accused school authorities of barring her from attending online classes because she has no uniform.

Teachers in most schools require the camera feature to be turned on during lessons and have insisted that inaccessibility is a consequence of non-compliance with dress regulations enforced by administrators.

Simone Aiden, an unemployed single mother of seven, said she has found it difficult to purchase the clothing for her daughter, Samoya Farquharson, as she struggles to keep her household afloat since losing her job working parties at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The entertainment industry has been shuttered for most of the last 19 months.

The family said they relocated from St Mary to a relative’s home in central Kingston in order to use a neighbour’s Internet connection. The 15-year-old also does not have an appropriate device to complete her schoolwork.

Farquharson told The Gleaner on September 29 that despite numerous appeals to teachers, informing them of her financial challenges, some have maintained a hard-line stance. Others, she said, have allowed the breach of the dress code, but those moments are short-lived.

Students have reportedly been offered the alternative of wearing white polo shirts.

“Where I live, I didn’t have any device,” said Samoya, referring to her home back in St Mary.

With no laptop or tablet, she has had to resort to using her mother’s cell phone.

The small screen, which is shared with other family members, has proven to be ineffective.

Since the beginning of the new academic year on September 6, Samoya has been highly dependent on the assistance of her classmates, who she has entrusted to take comprehensive notes in order to have reading material.

Aiden told The Gleaner on Monday night that as at September 30, her daughter was still being told that she could not attend online class without her uniform.

Samoya reportedly started being regularly allowed into class earlier this week.

The mother, who has been trying to source funds to collect the tunic from a dressmaker in Ocho Rios, still owes $3,000. Blouses are not factored into that cost.

There are other outstanding bills at play.

“The school a ask for $5,000 in contribution, but me can’t afford it,” Aiden said, claiming that the sum covered a package including an identification card, registration fee, and the uniform pattern.

“Me still trying to find the money.”

Samoya would have progressed to grade nine in September had she not repeated a grade, having missed most of the lessons during the last school year.

She has had to travel to Internet cafés or visit the National Library of Jamaica, located at 12 East Street in Kingston, to get schoolwork done.

However, Errol Bascoe, principal of Tacky High, said he was unaware of the specific case.

While acknowledging that the school’s administration insists on the wearing of uniforms during online classes, he said teachers have made accommodations when many students breach the rules.

“I have not given any instruction. The school administration has not given any instruction for anything like this to take place,” he told The Gleaner on Monday.

“What has been happening is that most of them are coming without uniforms, but we still don’t trouble them.”

He said that school authorities have had to take a stand for official school attire to be worn because of previous incidents in which students and even parents were inappropriately dressed. Bascoe said that a decision was made to uphold the standard of deportment.

“What was happening is that some people come without shirt ... . It couldn’t be as you please. It’s school we’re talking about ... so we said uniforms, which is a common thing,” he added.

“... We stress the importance of them being in uniform ... so we said stick to the uniform because if we allow it be as you wish, some people soon start come naked.”

Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Winston Smith said that while he was unaware of the instant situation, he urged parents to ensure that students follow school rules.

“We encourage the students and parents that when they are going into the online class, they should dress as usual,” he said on Monday.

Smith offered to investigate the matter and pledged to contact the regional officer for more information.