The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) has signalled its intention to sue the Ministry of Education over its proposed move to abolish its age-old tradition of publishing the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) results in the national newspapers.
In a letter sent to Education Minister Anthony Garcia yesterday, lawyers representing the SDMS threatened to file a judicial review lawsuit over the proposal recently touted by Garcia. The letter was sent by attorney Stefan Ramkissoon hours before Garcia was expected to meet with the ministry’s statutory executive team to discuss the issue.
“In the past years, the SEA examination results have been published for the benefit of all stakeholders. Students attending primary school have received and will receive a good education if the status quo remains unchanged,” Ramkissoon said.
Ramkissoon also claimed that Garcia appeared to be going ahead with the move without proper consultation with stakeholders such as the SDMS and without presenting empirical evidence on the psychological impact of the publication of the results on students.
“We are of the view that your decision is an irrational one in that you had no objective data or basis upon which to implement your proposed change of policy, nor have you sought to properly inform and/or acquaint yourself with the material facts in relation to this issue,” Ramkissoon said.
“The only reasonable inference which can be drawn from your dereliction of the aforementioned duties is that your proposed changes are rooted in bad faith.”
Ramkissoon said neither Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights nor the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child precludes the publication of children’s examination scores.
“There is simply no right to privacy of the SEA examination results! It is a publicly-funded exam and the public is entitled to be satisfied through publication that schools and students are doing well,” Ramkissoon said.
He suggested that the publication also helps with transparency and accountability and the prevention of accusations of discrimination and corruption.
“There has been no proper consultation on whether the SEA examination results should remain public knowledge by way of publication, or should it now become a secret affair by which only the politicians would benefit, wielding and dealing the fates of so many young children to suit their own political whims and fancies,” Ramkissoon said.
He also quoted statements made by SDMS secretary general Satnarayan Maharaj, who opposed the proposal during a meeting between Garcia and members of denominational school boards in late March.
In addition to the points amplified by Ramkissoon in the letter, Maharaj also pointed out that the proposed move did not consider the rights of parents and students who supported the publication of the results.
Ramkissoon gave the ministry until 4 pm yesterday to respond to the letter before the lawsuit is filed. The lawsuit is expected to include an application for an injunction blocking the proposed move if it is eventually introduced.
The SDMS is also being represented by Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally and Kiel Taklalsingh.