Minister of Education Anthony Garcia

There is often an unofficial holiday after a public holiday in this country depending on the day of the week it is given.

It’s not sanctioned by authorities but it has become a cultural norm to abstain from work or school the day after the holiday.

If the public holiday falls on a Thursday or the day before or even on a Tuesday some give themselves “ah long weekend” by staying at home.

However, according to Minister Anthony Garcia, who was speaking to Guardian Media about yesterday’s Ash Wednesday turnout at the nation’s schools, parents who condone such practices with their children are not only depriving them of an education but also fostering in them a sense of indiscipline.

“In the school system, there are rules and one would expect that those rules are obeyed by the students and they (the rules) should be supported by the parents. When parents deliberately…keep their children away from school (they) are being indisciplined and they are fostering that idea of being indiscipline because the children are flouting the rules of the school,” he said.

He added that the indiscipline is further encouraged when parents write an excuse which is a student is required to present to teachers when absent from school.

“What is the excuse that the parent would write for the child? That the child was tired? They played too much mas? The child jump up too much?” he asked.

Garcia indicated that the attendance of teachers and students at schools nationwide yesterday was slightly lower than last year’s figures except for primary school students which saw a 10 per cent increase.

He explained that this year 79.75 and 75.62 per cent of teachers at the primary and secondary schools respectively showed up for work yesterday. This is compared to 82 and 76 per cent last year.

The figure for student attendance is notably lower than that of teachers with 29 and 18 per cent showing up at the primary and secondary schools respectively yesterday.

Last year 19 and 31 per cent of students showed up at the primary and secondary school level respectively.

Garcia also noted that trends indicate there is a lower teacher turnout in the smaller, more rural education districts on Ash Wednesday.

“The larger educational districts- St George East, Port-of-Spain, Victoria- their attendance of teachers is higher than the attendance of teachers in the rural areas. In areas like South East and North Eastern districts and even Caroni, for some reason, both teachers and students stayed away in larger numbers,” he said.