The same problems, which have been plaguing residents across water-starved St Joseph, are now creating turmoil for at least one group of primary school students in that rural parish, with some angry teachers now threatening to take matters into their own hands.
Today, only two days into the new school term, classes were abruptly suspended at the St Joseph Primary School due to the crippling impact of drip taps.
A team from Barbados TODAY was just in time this afternoon to witness the early release of the students into the care of their angry parents and guardians around 1:30 p.m.
And while principal Clova Alleyne sought to put on a brave face, while reporting that everything at the school was fine and that there was a smooth start to the new school term, both parents and teachers openly vented their frustrations, saying they were totally fed up with the conditions.
In fact, given the ongoing water troubles which have been plaguing the parish for several weeks now, Timeika Howard, who has a son in Infants A, questioned the school’s re-opening on Monday, while saying the situation was simply not fair to the children.
“The first day of school there was no water out there. We haven’t had water in eight or nine weeks,” she told Barbados TODAY.
The upset parent also raised concern about the overall condition of the school, while calling on the Ministry of Education “to look into what is going on down here.
“The place needs to be sanitary at all times. It can’t go on so, because we will end up having to take the children to the doctor because they will get sick. It just isn’t right,” Howard stressed.
Lauren Wharton, who was collecting four students from the infant school, said the water problems were going on for far too long, as she pleaded with authorities to do something about it.
“This has been happening since last term. Everyday the children go school, there is no water. A new school term and the same thing. We thought they would have worked on it during the summer, but the students returned to the same thing,” Wharton lamented.
Another resident, who requested anonymity, described the conditions at St Joseph Primary as “disgraceful”.
“That school isn’t clean, the bathrooms are horrible and it is not sanitary for those children to be in there. Will they wait until they get sick to care? The ministry needs to step in and deal with this situation immediately,” the frustrated resident said.
Her assessment squared with that given by some of the teachers who were equally adamant that something urgently needed to be done.
“This school has not been cleaned since July. We re-opened to a dirty school. The toilets still don’t flush,” one angry teacher said, while pointing out that the problems at the school were not new but had been going on since last term.
However, to make matters worse, the educator said the school’s water tank has a crack in it and is currently leaking water, while a new tank, which was recently donated by a commercial bank, was yet to be installed.
“The [old] tank seemed to be not working still nothing is being done. One was donated along with a pump and it is just still there,” the frustrated teacher vented.
Today, a team of officials, including an officer from the Ministry of Education and representatives of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) paid their second visit to the St Joseph school in two days after students were unable to receive lunch before 2 p.m. yesterday due to the absence of water for purposes of basic hygiene.
Some teachers are now threatening that if there is still no water by 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, they would be leaving the premises.
However, when contacted this evening BUT President Pedro Shepherd said he was aware of the situation at the school and believed it could be rectified swiftly if the ministry gave it proper attention.
“Yes I am aware of the situation. I was told the children would have had their lunch late yesterday. I’m not sure if it was because of the water problems. I know about the lack of water today. When I got there just after one the plumbers were on the job trying to correct a problem with the tank because apparently as soon as the tank is filled with water in a matter of an hour or so it flows right back out,” he said.
“They are trying to correct that. There is a second tank at the school, which is not connected. I’m hoping the ministry, being aware of the water woes in St Joseph would try to see how quickly they can get that particular tank installed,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Despite the ongoing challenges, he cautioned teachers of the need to follow protocol, saying they could not just walk off the compound.
“They can’t just leave at 10:30 if the water isn’t on. There is a particular protocol that has to be followed . . . only the Minister [of Education] can close schools. Teachers would not just walk off the compound even though they may want to. I did indicate to them to wait until break time and see if they are any changes to the situation and, if not, speak to the principal to go through the necessary procedure,” he added.
Efforts to reach Minister of Education Ronald Jones this evening were unsuccessful.