Students from St Catherine’s School in Toorak went on the worst excursion ever.
WHAT was meant to be an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in Fijian life, ended up being an excursion from hell.
About 30 girls from St Catherine’s School in Toorak, near Melbourne’s CBD, travelled to the country to mark the end of term one.
But this particular trip ended up a nightmare, so much so, the deputy principal is even suing the exclusive girls’ school.
The students left for their trip around March 25 and it took just two weeks for it to turn into a hellish holiday.
Half the number of girls contracted contagious conjunctivitis, then three students were hospitalised with bad gastro and they needed to take antibiotics through an IV drip.
The sick students were evacuated from Fiji.
To make matters worse, a cyclone then hit the highland area of Fiji where students were staying and they became stranded.
Court documents claim the school also organised dodgy accommodation and transport and the young students stayed in backpacker-style lodging.
They were gawked at by several older men who were staying at the same place.
The girls were also in a room with large windows that were exposed to the public and there were concerns about the girls needing to use the bathroom.
Girls had to leave the room and walk 40m outside along an unlit narrow corridor, which could be accessed by anybody.
The accommodation was made worse when teachers and students were woken up by drunken backpackers.
Eating was also a disaster and if students weren’t dining at places that served alcohol, they were eating dinner on the floor of the meal area at their accommodation because of a lack of space.
The dorm they were staying in also flooded at the beginning of the trip and students had to move their belongings so they weren’t damaged.
Before they moved to the backpacker-style accommodation, the only place available to stay was a village house.
For the first two nights of the trip staff slept in a loungeroom and there was only one toilet for 30 people, and it was blocked.
ing an activity students were instructed to cross a “fast-flowing swollen river” which was knee-high deep.
They were then encouraged to partake in a rafting activity without wearing helmets or life jackets.
Students were also driven around in a truck where they didn’t wear seatbelts and there were only canvas canopies around the vehicle.
St Catherine’s deputy principal Rosemary Ward, who is suing the school, was not there during the disastrous trip, but was the health and safety emergency contact back in Australia.
She had only worked at the school since January, but before the trip, the principal told Ms Ward she was pleased she hired her.
On April 22, following the trip, Ms Ward made some complaints about it to the principal.
She said it could have been better planned and managed and a more adequate tour company could have been contracted.
But raising these issues turned out to be problematic for Ms Ward, according to court documents, and her relationship with the principal began to break down and she was excluded from planning another Fiji trip for year 9 girls later this year.
After bringing up the issues about the trip with the principal, Ms Ward was accused of failing in other aspects of her job.
The principal claimed since Ms Ward started in January, she incorrectly addressed an email to a staff member, incorrectly addressed a staff member and initially went to the wrong place for a parent evening.
The principal was also not happy with Ms Ward’s conduct in the role of emergency contact for the Fiji trip.
The court documents claim the accusations against Ms Ward were “trivial” and the school was attempting to use Ms Ward as a “scapegoat” for the calamitous management of the Fiji trip.
Following the principal’s claims, Ms Ward spoke to a school consultant who said the principal “lost confidence” in Ms Ward’s ability to be the deputy principal.
He then informed her the principal would give Ms Ward a two-week probationary period where she had to do everything perfectly.
The consultant said Ms Ward should consider resigning.
Following that conversation, Ms Ward was left out of an information night for year 9 girls about the next trip to Fiji.
She later made a formal complaint in relation to bullying and unfair treatment and claims she was pressured to resign.
She is seeking up to $250,000 in damages and other costs from St Catherine’s School.
Ms Ward has not been at the school since May 5, according the court documents, because of a medical condition.
St Catherine’s School said Ms Ward was not asked to resign and wouldn’t make a further comment about its employees or matters that were before the court.
The school believes there are inaccuracies in the claim and said it would address them at the appropriate time.
Source: news.com.au JUNE 7, 2016