Antigua Observer:-Several persons have publicly voiced their disapproval of the what they view was bad judgement by Prime Minister Gaston Browne when he distributed cash to Grade Six students at the Five Islands Primary School.
Prime Minister Browne, who was invited to speak to Grade Three and Grade Six students during Antigua History Week, allegedly handed US$20 to students in Grade Six and distributed gifts to the children in the lower grade.
One of the strongest voices among the chorus was that of former Principal of the Golden Grove Primary School and former President of the Senate, Hazlyn Francis, who charged that his action “has a meaning”.
“In my day I would not have done it, and if I were the principal I would not have done that. Some of the children would understand the message it sends. Then, they would keep looking to every adult who comes by to give them something.
“And it was the students who were among the oldest in the school. They are intelligent and they would know that that is a message,” Francis said.
Browne confirmed to OBSERVER media that during a visit to the school, on Tuesday, at which he addressed Grade Six students on the topic of ‘government’, the cash gifts were distributed, but he said it was “a non-issue”.
“We gave them a number of gift items, but there were so many students that we did not have enough gift items, and we gave a few of them cash US $20 in lieu of the gift item. They also gave me gifts, which I accepted graciously. Tell those who are making an issue out of it to get a life. It’s a non-issue,” Browne said.
Francis, who was also an education officer in Zone Two said, “Whatever the claim is, it is wrong. You do not do that. If your prime minister comes to school and gives you a handed out gift of that nature –money – it says that nothing is wrong with this and that this happens.