It is gathered that prior to the altercation; the Board of Trustees (made up mostly of old girls of the school) were agitating for the FSSG to be privatized. Efforts for the realization of this had been underway but according to a letter sent by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) to the Chairperson, Board of Trustees of the Freetown Secondary School for Girls and signed by the MEST Permanent Secretary, Umaru A. Conteh, the privatization process could not go ahead until certain parameters and conditions were met.
The letter stated: “…it is only when the Privatization sub-Committee is satisfied that the school has strictly fulfilled every criterion in the approved Cabinet Criteria for Privatization set by the National Board of Education will an approval for privatization be issued to your school.”
It adds: “This Ministry notes that you blatantly refused to comply with directives given to you by the national Board of Education to hand over all school properties to the Board of Governors but you went on to describe this directive as “out of order.” The letter dated 20th February, 2018 went on to state: “Consequent on the above, let me point out to you that your stance in this whole issue of privatization has not been helpful to the process and I am constrained to inform you that the “Provisional Privatization Status” accorded you in January 2016 by this Ministry has been suspended indefinitely. On the strength of this, the Ministry will not tolerate any plans by you to go private within the timelines set in the calendar you are currently publicizing.”
Speaking to the AYV in front of the gate that had been ordered closed by the school administration on what had transpired was Rosemond Williams, President of the FSSG Ex-Pupils Association. She said among other things that “it is just that the SSS Principal is being extremely adamant because we had a cabinet approval on the 6th October, 2015 for this school to be private.” She went on to say that she is also a member on the Board of governors, adding that they were given a three years transition period for them to start refurbishing and doing everything else to bring the school to what they want. She added that they have refurbished and equipped the school’s science labs and done other refurbishment work on other school facilities in preparation for privatizing the FSSG.
On why the gate was closed in order to disallow them from holding their proposed meeting, Rosemond Williams, President of the FSSG Ex-Pupils Association said: “The Principal Mrs. Bobson-Kamara says that the Bank of Governors; well,…actually what they wanted was the keys to the hall turned over; keys to the boarding department turned over; and keys to the Montessori School turned over.”
According to Rosemond Williams, currently it is the Board of Trustees that is the custodian of the keys to the school. She said: “The Board of Trustees, they are the proprietors of the school,” adding that “Mrs. Bobson Kamara together with the Chairman Board of Governors Thorlu Bangura want us to turn over the keys before we begin to talk about privatization.” She maintained that because they put out an announcement on radio for parents to come so they can talk to them about what is going on to meet September 2018 , the Principal put out a counter announcement telling parents there was no such meeting. “But definitely the meeting is going to be held because we have relocated to the boarding department,” Rosemond Williams said.
However, giving her own side to the unfortunate incident Mrs. EMJ Bobson-Kamara, Principal of the Freetown Secondary School for Girls – Senior Secondary Division said people told her of the announcement because she did not hear it herself. She went on to state that there was an announcement on radio that there was a meeting on Wednesday 2nd May, 2018 at 4 o’clock for parents and guardians of pupils of the school. She said she discussed the issue with the Chairman of the Board and the Chairman of the Standing Committee and one or two other Board members and they told her that they had not been informed and that nobody had sought permission from them.
“So, I summoned an assembly on Friday and I spoke with the pupils and told them that as a school, we have not summoned a meeting,” Mrs. Bobson-Kamara said, adding that she gathered that the Trustees had summoned a meeting but from the letter that was sent to the Chairman of the Board, of which she received a copy, she knows that the issue of privatization of the FSSG has been suspended indefinitely.
“But prior to the letter dated 20th February, 2018, we have been holding a series of meetings at the Ministry of Education with the National Board of Education that advises government on educational issues. There are several findings: that the Board of Trustees is running a parallel administration to that of the school. They were told that all keys, even if they were given a provisional privatization status; all keys to facilities within the school should be handed over to the Principal and that it is the principal who administers the school. The Board of Governors is the body set up by the government to superintend a school. The Board of Governors does the policy, monitors its implementation for efficiency and enhancement of quality education for the pupils,” the FSSG - SSS Principal, Mrs. Bobson-Kamara maintained.
She went further to inform AYV that as principal she is a member of the Board of Governors and that the Board of Trustees otherwise known as proprietors are also represented on the Board of Governors among others including CTA, the Education Minister’s nominee among several other pertinent representatives.
She went on to say that at those meetings, the participants made their different presentations and recommendations as to how the school can be privatized. She said they looked at a range of issues including classroom space, facilities available, shift, number of children to be retained and modus operandi among other issues.
According to her, she said that at one of the meetings held at the Education Ministry, the Trustees were instructed to hand over the keys to the school administration because “we cannot have a parallel administration.” Mrs. Bobson-Kamara claimed that the Trustees hold the keys to the hall which they rent out to the public without informing the Chairman of the Board and that so far they have refused to give account of the funds they raise and expend on behalf of the school, adding that at one point, they even chased away an auditor contracted to examine their books of account. The deadlock remains. See next edition for more details.