The Ministry of Education has reversed its position on barring an 11-year-old student from Guyana, who lived in T&T for most of his life, from sitting next month’s Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam.
The decision was communicated on Thursday afternoon in a letter sent to lawyer Stefan Ramkissoon, who is representing the child’s guardians.
It came less than 24 hours after Ramkissoon issued a pre-action protocol letter threatening legal action over the decision.
While the ministry said the child and other foreign nationals like him, who did not have valid student permits from the Immigration Division, would be allowed to sit the examination, it warned they might encounter further problems, as a valid permit was also required for registration at a secondary school.
The names of the child, his guardians and the primary school he s currently attending were withheld by this newspaper on the request of the guardians’ attorneys. The exam is scheduled for May 3.
According to the pre-action letter, the child and his two older siblings have been living with their guardians, who are Trinidadian nationals, for almost ten years.
While the child’s siblings were allowed to sit the exam in 2014 and last year, the ministry informed the guardians that he would not be allowed this year.
Ramkissoon had claimed his client had a legitimate expectation that he would be allowed to sit the exam as he was never asked to provide a permit during his almost seven years in the local school system.
“If there is in fact a purported policy now being implemented by the Ministry of Education, that a non-national student cannot continue with his education, such a policy clearly does not serve any valid educational purpose and is in breach of the statutory authority/mandate provided for under the Education Act,” he said.
Responding to questions from reporters at a press conference at the ministry’s Port-of-Spain office yesterday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia and Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan defended the ministry’s initial position. They claimed the ministry was merely enforcing immigration protocol.
“We worked out the requirement and it has always been there. It is still a requirement and we took a decision,” Seecharan said.
However, he admitted the ministry changed its decision as it “was in the best interest of the child.”
He also noted the ministry was involved in meetings with the division last year, as it (the division) reported that there is a large number of children, who are here illegally with their parents, being enrolled in the education system.
The child and his guardians are also being represented by Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally and Kiel Taklalsingh. (Trinidad Guardian)