Opinion: Parent raises serious issues about Sacred Heart School

Dear Editor,

On behalf of the vulnerable and seemingly voiceless, opinion-less youth of Saba, most of whom have been subjected to many injustices during their course of primary education on Saba, I request immediate action by those in authority, against the functioning of the Sacred Heart School.

I am very dissatisfied with the quality of education at the Sacred Heart School and the unobtrusive, unintelligent and uninformed decisions that continue to be made by the current administration. Calls to the school board to address the below mentioned issues remain unaddressed and I have lost all confidence in the management of this school.

The Sacred Heart School has come into direct violation of multiple rights of the child as per the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The information below gives an accurate illustration of this, as well as cases and occurrences that can be found edible, if investigated. However, for fear of victimization, the sources and other sensitive information shall not be named.

Article 3 — All organizations concerned with children should work towards what is best for each child”
The Sacred Heart School has failed many students of this school by individuals pushing their personal agendas, engaging in unethical teaching practices. Many children at this school voice their concerns, worries and discontentment. In the same breath, they are swiftly dismissed. Many children are unhappy and unmotivated to actively participate in their school experience; this is currently known among the Principal and her staff at the Sacred Heart School.

Article 12 — Children have the right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account.”
The students of the Sacred Heart School continue to be shut down and dismissed repeatedly when they try to voice their opinions on matters that concern and directly affect them. Students continue to be blamed for the shortcomings of the management and staff; the adults of this institution do not hold themselves accountable for many incidents involving students, but rather, it is the child’s and parent’s fault. The students of this school have expressed no confidence and no trust in voicing their school-related concerns.

Article 16 — Children have the tight to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their family and their home.”
The Sacred Heart School has acted unprofessionally, unethically and biased on numerous occasions in creating a vulnerability among the students by exposing their personal information, be it school- or home-based, to individuals outside of the school. This has been done via popular social media platforms and also in verbal conversations.

Article 23 — Children, who have any kind of disability should receive special care and support so that they can live a full and independent life.”
The principal, acting on behalf of the Sacred Heart School, has on more than one occasion expressed that the school is unable to accommodate students with special education needs, which leaves these students without any access to primary education. To date, there is no plan to address this educational gap. There is no differentiated learning taking place at the Sacred Heart School; the different levels of cognitive abilities and learning styles are not being catered to — “one shoe must fit all”.

Article 28 — Children have the right to an education. Discipline in schools should respect children’s human dignity. Primary education should be free. Wealthier countries should help poorer countries achieve this.”
Parents have been forced to seek alternative options to the Sacred Heart School within the last academic year, two of which have been confirmed to have left the island, because of the incompetence in working on a more holistic and much-needed educational approach that includes children of different cultures, background and cognitive capacities.

Article 5 — No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The students of this school have been subjected to physical punishment, emotional abuse and educational neglect; a direct result of the failure to lead and protect each child under charge of the management of this school. The Sacred Heart School, has directly violated the Human Rights of their students, as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The methods of discipline in the Sacred Heart School are not all “conscious” as they preach and the principal is well aware of this. There is evidence to support claims that students are regularly physically punished (and injured), placed out of classrooms, made to stand in the direct sunshine and deprived of their break times and food. Students have been verbally lambasted in front of entire classrooms, through degrading and derogatory comments by their teachers.

The Government of the Netherlands states, “In 2010 Leiden University and TNO (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research) carried out a study into the scope and nature of child abuse. Every year an estimated 119,000 children experience some type of abuse.” There are five general types of child abuse, four of which the Sacred Heart School continues to demonstrate.

  •  Physical abuse: all forms of physical violence;
  • Emotional or psychological abuse: an adult regularly berates the child, acts in a dismissive and hostile manner towards the child or intentionally scares the child;
  • Physical neglect: the child does not receive the care and nurturing that it needs;
  • Emotional or psychological neglect: continuous lack of positive attention for the child;
  • Ignoring the child’s need for love, warmth and security.

The UNICEF Situation Analysis of children in the Caribbean Netherlands (2019) notes the following about the common quality of education, factors that are specific to the shortcomings of the Sacred Heart School. Suitable education:

  • Cases of exclusion and challenges with behavior problems; to which the Sacred Heart School has no plan of action.
  • Participation at schools fragmented activities; not institutionalized.

Furthermore, I am not confident that the current Principal, who, in my opinion, has shown a dire lack of administrative skills, organizational skills and professional vision and knowledge, is capable of promoting the Second Educational Agenda, which covers the years 2017 up to and including 2020, one of the main objectives of this education agenda being ‘Ensuring that students in the Caribbean Netherlands receive education in 2020 that is of adequate quality.” By her inability to:

  • hire and retain qualified and experienced staff,
  • provide a structure and school climate that is conducive to learning,
  • be an advocate for all students of the Sacred Heart School,
  • motivate and inspire staff members,
  • be a team player,
  • reflect on and admit to her professional shortcomings,
  • communicate effectively with parents, teachers and other stakeholders,
  • be transparent in all her professional undertakings, I do not think this is the type of administrator that the Sacred Heart School needs and deserves at this point in time.

I believe that our children deserve better, better than what is currently being procured for the Sacred Heart School.

As previously stated, I am not confident in the board’s ability to act impartially, as they have been made privy to many issues at this school and continue to ignore them. Therefore, I am calling on the Executive Council or anyone in The Netherlands, who may read this letter, on behalf of the people of Saba, to act in the best interest of our future generations. Despite the fabricated reports that paint a different story, the truth is that our children have been and continue to be victimized, ill-treated and imperiled to a less than adequate primary education.

Enough is enough!

Concerned Saban

(Name withheld at the author’s request)

Note of the Editor:
The letter was signed by an individual. The original text has been adapted to reflect this.

SHS school board reacts to "opinion" letter
SabaGov Newsletter January 2020

4 comments

  1. This is a primes example of the scrutiny and judgement teachers face every day.
    There is not ONE concrete example of how SHS violated any of these rights, and the few examples given are exaggerations. SHS feeds children who come to school without we food- they don’t use it as a punishment. Perhaps the author could offer better consequences for misbehaviour and disrespect instead of disagreeing with keeping them in for break or asking them to exit the classroom?
    As a former teacher there, I worked tirelessly to creat Individual Education Plans for those with special needs and spent hours creating diffrientiated lesson plans so that I could teach a range of abilities at once. Government is to blame if there is not enough resources to teach more Special Education, not the Principal.
    This article is completing insulting and just one more example of how entitled some people feel they are to know better than the educators.

    This letter is a bunch of fluff with no substance.

    I bet $100 teachers know who the author is, and another $100 that the author doesn’t have any children who attend the school.
    I’d also bet $1000 that the author has never spent a single day as a teacher at SHS.

  2. I’m curious is the author is painting all educators with the same brush, or are there specific teachers which are denying these human rights to students?

    As well, I can say from personal experience, that the Principal is in charge of less than you think. She answers to the Board.

    Perhaps that is the one thing the author and I do agree upon- get rid of board members who use their seat as a tool to boast and believe themselves superior to others. Remove board members who have been in the board longer than 5 years. Remove board members who refuse to accept that it is 2020, not 1980, and finally remove Board members who do not have the courage to fire teachers who may indeed create an unsafe classroom.

    Also.. why does the author have to publicly cal upon the Councils to investigate? Has the Education Policy Advisor to the government not been involved or neglecting their duties? Perhaps residents of Saba aren’t even aware that that position in government even exists.

  3. Not surprising to read this. When my son was in school there years ago, he was forced to stand outside in the hot sun,because they felt he was a disruption to the class. Instead of helping him they hindered him.He got excepted into MITT as an adult. I hope the voices of the children can be heard.

  4. Hats off to the parent who wrote this, very well written and informative.
    It’s said to see that little progress can be made for our children when issues like this remain not taken care of.
    Reports of some of the schools “older heads” abusing children has been the talk for many years yet nothing is ever done. And the school board is “family” run so they will intern protect their family instead of the well being of the students. This is why boards members in general should be changed regularly instead of remaining members for decades, of coarse this rarely occurs with the SHS school board.

    Its rather sad though that this negatively reflects the entire school, when there are infact teachers and staff who work there who genuinely care for their students. Any environment where students and staff have to fear going to isn’t healthy for any concerned!!

    Let’s see if this article will infact bring about any positive change, and not just get pushed aside.
    (Based on the response from the School board, that may just be the case)

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