An overly sensitive workforce that “panic” at the sight of the slightest environmental issues is just one of the many challenges facing the island’s education system, says a leading Government official.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Harry Husbands, in calling for the development of a culture of health and safety here, Wednesday morning suggested that Barbadians tended to react with greater concern to issues at work that are similar to what they would face at home.
Addressing a seminar on the management of school maintenance at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa in Rockley, Christ Church, Husbands cited a visit Tuesday to an unnamed school where mould was discovered in the roof.
“Yesterday, Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Ronald Jones and I visited a school and there was some mould way up in the roof and everybody became concerned. It was a little piece of mould and everybody was concerned, but mould is everywhere. Mould is at home. But once it appears at the workplace people begin to panic. That explains why we are building a culture of safety and health which begins not at work, but is an everyday occurrence,” he told the Inter-American Development Bank sponsored seminar.
A number of schools here have complained about environmental or structural problems over the past decade or so, including the Louis Lynch Secondary School which was closed in 2005 after students and staff complained repeatedly that environmental issues had been affecting their health; the Chalky Mount Primary School which was shut in 2015 because of structural issues, and Combermere School, where ongoing environmental issues have forced several closures.
However, there is also the issue of maintenance, according to Husbands, who admitted that Government was “particularly weak” in this area.
“I think that we are particularly weak in the area of maintenance of school plants and for a justifiable reason. There are not enough resources around to maintain standards,” he said, adding that there were school plants in which classes should no longer be conducted because of the poor state of the structure.
The Government spokesman also revealed an increase in respiratory problems in the education system, warning of an “urgent demand” for attention to be paid to the physical environment.
“We in the ministry are also faced with an increasingly sensitive user group. We are finding persons less physically tolerant of dust and respiratory threats in general. We have seen a general increase in the incidence of asthma and sinus related maladies. All of the foregoing present us with an urgent demand for consistent attention to the quality of our physical environment,” Husbands said.