An appeal today by an outspoken Anglican cleric to the island’s education authorities to put students and teachers at the Combermere School out of their current misery by abandoning all classes at the problem-plagued Waterford, St Michael learning institution.
Describing the situation as “dire”, Reverend Charles Morris, who heads the school’s History Department, called on the Ministry of Education to urgently step in and to provide an alternative location to Combermere until a worsening environmental problem there is resolved.
Morris told Barbados TODAY that several students and teachers were falling ill. He also said that he and some other teachers had been forced to ditch their classrooms because of a foul odour, which he said was especially pungent in the History room.
As a result, History lessons are now being taught in the school’s foyer, and Morris said he had informed Principal Vere Parris, as well as officials at the Ministry of Education of the development.
“It is an odour that is obnoxious to refined nostrils,” the Anglican cleric said.
“Students are getting sick, teachers are getting sick. I myself have been having problems. I was okay over the weekend and the moment I come back to school this week I have been losing my voice and I have been having headaches,” Morris added.
In recent years, the school has been plagued with several of these reports. However, numerous industrial cleanings and environmental probes have failed to produce a sustainable cure.
While suggesting that the problem had to do with air quality, Morris said: “I do not think the authorities are addressing our problem.
“Right now I would prefer us to move out that place, because it is my health that comes first,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Efforts to reach the principal, Minister of Education Ronald Jones and the Chief Education Officer were unsuccessful.
However, when contacted, President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman said she was aware of the situation.
In fact, she said since the beginning of the school term in September, she has been receiving reports of teachers falling ill with symptoms such as headaches, shortness of breath and burning and itchy skin.
Redman said she was also aware that the Secretary Treasurer’s office had to be relocated because all of the persons working there had fallen ill.
She disclosed that during the second week of this school term she had met with Chief Education Officer Karen Best at the ministry’s Constitution Road headquarters to discuss the matter.
“It is very worrying for the union and the teachers because we thought that when the supposedly remedial actions were undertaken last time that the problem would have been addressed. Obviously they were not addressed because the root of the problem has not been found,” she told Barbados TODAY.
The union leader also expressed concern that the final report, including the findings of the investigations carried out at the institution, was not made available to the BSTU as was initially promised.
“None of those things have been forthcoming and have been sources of concern for us. We need something compiled, something coherent, something analytical,” said Redman, who is scheduled to hold follow up talks with officials in the Ministry of Education on Monday.