The Learning Centre, a private school catering to the needs of children with disabilities, is facing the possibility of closure because critical Government financial support is not coming in as before.
Dawn Rudder, principal of the Orange Hill, St James based institution, told Barbados TODAY this morning that the school was struggling to pay salaries and bills because of Government’s failure to pay outstanding bursaries for about 90 percent of the student roll.
Yesterday, as he contributed to debate in the House of Assembly on the Education (Amendment) Bill 2015, Opposition Shadow Minister of Education, Edmund Hinkson, called on the Freundel Stuart administration to fix the problem which he described as “dire.”
He charged that the school had not received any payments for bursaries for this academic year.
Rudder said Hinkson’s report was accurate. She said the last time the school received payment for bursaries was on February 23, and this was for the third term of the 2013-2014 school year.
It takes a maximum of $50 000 a month to cover the school’s expenses.
“Mr. Hinkson was perfectly correct yesterday in Parliament and anybody who says different, I would have to wonder why,” the principal said.
Meanwhile, the school’s secretary treasurer, Desrine Forde, said the centre was currently depending on limited savings to keep its head above water.
“We have used up our savings, so we are now in dire straits. We don’t have savings that are going to last a year. So within the next few months we need the funds coming in.”
“The difference between our income and our expenditure is almost nil at this point and that’s from figures and facts. And our teachers deserve to be paid because they don’t get a lot, but they are dedicated,” Forde said.
Rudder confirmed that at a Parent Teachers Association meeting held two weeks ago, parents were informed that the Learning Centre faced the possibility of closure due to its financial situation.
Forde said the news was not taken well by the parents of the 75 students who rely heavily on the service of the 38-year-old institution.
“They need the place for their children to come to school. More than 90 per cent of our children are coming from Government centres because they cut off at 13-years-old. There is not anywhere else for these children to go,” the secretary treasurer said.
The principal said buying just a ream of paper was currently a difficult proposition due to lack of funds.
“We don’t have basic things to keep functioning and we do use paper a lot because our children are functioning at levels below the average. We make up a lot of our lessons and we have to photocopy them, so we need paper,” Rudder said.
In a self-help initiative to raise funds, the Centre is holding an evening cruise scheduled for March 28 on the M.C. Buccaneer. The institution can be contacted for more information.