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Parents who pulled daughter from Kensington Primary report threat

BY ARLENE MARTIN-WILKINS Associate editor news martina@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

THE mother who pulled her daughter from Kensington Primary School in protest against adminstrators' use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure and to ensure that students maintain perfect grades, says she and her husband have been threatened and told to vacate their Portmore, St Catherine home.

Aretha Miller-Walker told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the threat was made by a woman, who turned up at their gate about 7:00 Sunday evening, to enquire whether they had a daughter attending the school.

"My husband responded to a knocking at the gate. He saw a woman who asked if we had a daughter attending Kensington. He told her 'not anymore' after which she shouted 'so a oonu responsible fi di article, the war jus' start; oonu haffi lef' yah'," Miller-Walker said yesterday.

She said the loud-mouthed woman, who maintained that 'pickney fi get lick', told her husband that they had to find somewhere else to live 'cause wi nah go mek oonu tan yah and bring dung Kensington".

Miller-Walker said the woman left minutes later, after which she made a report to the Caymanas Police.

Last night, efforts to get a confirmation from the police were unsuccessful.

Miller-Walker, meanwhile, said she is concerned.

"My daughter is scared and I'm concerned because arrogant people will do stupid things. When I take my child to and from school I don't know who will throw a stone," she told the Observer.

Established in 1996, Kensington is regarded as one of the top primary schools across the island. The school maintains mastery levels in the high 90s in the grade four literacy and numeracy exams, in addition to placements at top high schools for students who sit the Grade Six Achievement Test.

In this week's Sunday Observer, Miller-Walker complained how she had to pull her daughter from the school when she became fearful after the child and others were subjected to constant beatings with a ruler when they did not score 100 per cent in their schoolwork.

What was worse, she said, was the reaction from the school's administration when she complained about the use of corporal punishment, which is not sanctioned by the education ministry.

She said her daughter's teacher, a male, described the child as an 'egg shell', while principal Carlene McCalla-Francis basically gave her a 'take-it-or-leave-it' ultimatum.

In a direct response to questions from the Sunday Observer, McCalla-Francis defended the use of corporal punishment at the school, but insisted that the beatings were in no way intended to harm her students.

"We are working under pressure here as we are given targets, so if you have a class where children have ability you can't just sit there and say who pass, pass, you have to do what you have to do. Two little slaps in the palm of the hands is not abuse," McCalla-Francis, who disclosed that she was taken before the court three times over the issue, was quoted as saying.

The Ministry of Education and the Office of the Children's Advocate have since launched separate probes into the matter.

Yesterday, Miller-Walker insisted that her dissatisfaction with the use of corporal punishment was not about discipline, but more about the maintaining of high grades.

"You cannot beat a child to learn like that and then when I'm trying to speak up for my child, you do not want to have any kind of dialogue," she said.




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