Parents at the meeting on Thursday in which lawyer Carlos Oliveira assured them no one but a judge can close Aljezur International School

Fight is on to save west Algarve school

Children’s education safe, assures lawyer

The fight is on to ‘save’ Aljezur International School – the rural secondary school recognised by UNESCO, accredited as an international exam centre by the University of Cambridge but hit suddenly with a closure notice earlier this month.

Following a ‘Kafkaesque’ meeting parents had recently with education ‘delegate’ Alexandre Lima who signed off on the notice, the school has ‘lawyered up’ and, as such, pupils’ education is safe.

“This is now a process”, lawyer Carlos Oliveira explained at a meeting held at the school on Thursday. “We have to get to the end of it – and if that means going all the way to the European courts, well that is what will happen.

“In the meantime, the children’s education is safe. No one can order the school to close unless they are a judge”.

It is Carlos Oliveira who has likened this situation to “Kafka’s Road to Death”.

As our previous text – and the school’s own statement – have tried to explain, very little makes any sense in this story: The school was established in 2010 following an invitation from Aljezur Câmara; it applied for a temporary licence while in temporary premises next door to Aljezur’s EB1 – and then applied, and appeared to receive, a permanent licence when it moved to its permanent premises in 2014.

From that time until this day, the school has been operating under a unique Ministry of Education code which is only given to licensed schools.

Carlos Oliveira is under no illusions. “Someone has made a mistake in procedure, and they are trying to cover it up”.

In fact mistakes in procedure seem to persistThe only certainty is that by challenging the closure notice – the school cannot be closed (as bizarre as that may sound).

The new academic year reopens on September 7, and almost all pupils will be returning as planned.

But this ‘administrative nightmare’ has taken its toll: some parents are jittery; others even planning a return to UK as they have no wish to put their children through the Portuguese State system. 

“This has been hugely damaging”, directors Karen Whitten and Sílvia Catarino admit. “Our mistake was in thinking the Ministry of Education was there to help us…”

Having consulted the files, Carlos Oliveira reiterated “the whole process is full of holes. This is something that will have to be discussed in court. The Ministry has not behaved as the law demands – and there is no doubt at all that a licence existed”.

So, for now, it’s ‘battle stations’ – with parents considering a Class Action as well as a social media ‘campaign’ to ensure the school they have chosen for their children survives.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com