Minister of Education Ronald Jones says he is totally in the dark about the environmental problems plaguing the
St Catherine Primary School in St Philip, which have forced teachers to take their classes outdoors.
Jones, whose ministry has been faced since the start of the year with major environmental issues at three Government-run schools, namely St Lawrence Primary, Blackman & Gollop and the Erdiston Special School, contended that it was not their practice to lag on such matters.
On Thursday, one upset parent, Simon Clarke, complained to Barbados TODAY that environmental issues at the St Catherine Primary had left teachers with no choice but to abandon a section of the building and resort to teaching under a tent and beneath trees.
“I was informed through a rumour that the school has some issues with droppings, dust and fungus. I made a phone call to the principal and it was then I found out that since March 1, 2018, he had informed the Ministry of Education of the situation.
“My main concern is that neither the ministry nor the school has informed the parents about the issue at hand. We have been in the dark all this time,” Clarke said.
The furious father said he was concerned that the students were being exposed to the elements. Therefore, he called on the Ministry of Education to meet with parents in order to determine the best solution.
However, while not disputing Clarke’s account, Jones told Barbados TODAY that he was shocked that “a matter of such importance had not crossed his desk”.
He also agreed with the aggrieved father that the parents of children attending the school should have been immediately informed when the problem first manifested.
“This is the first time I am hearing about this and normally these things do reach me but it really is the first time I am hearing about it. The ministry should have been informed and the parents should have been informed because we would have moved in and taken command of the situation. This one really surprises me,” Jones stressed while assuring parents that the matter would be immediately investigated and action would be taken to remedy any issues at the school.
“We will see that these problems are immediately fixed. You can rest assured that action will be taken immediately. If it is something that can’t be done, we would relocate the children. If it is minor, we will deal with that,” the former educator promised, adding that “our teachers and children must operate in conditions that are not injurious to their health.
Making reference to recent remedial work on several school plants, the minister was adamant that had he been made aware of the St Catherine Primary situation, the matter would have been a top priority.
“I am really surprised to be hearing about this,” Jones stressed.
“We acted very quickly at the Erdiston Special School, which only this week had some issue and we had to deal with that. So I don’t understand what could have been the hiccup with this situation [at St Catherine Primary].
“If there are droppings or mould we would deal with it. We did major work at St Catherine School just five years ago, so I am really surprised about this,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon Barbados TODAY visited the school and saw classes being conducted under a white tent, as well as under a coconut tree. A third class was crammed into the office of Principal Carlton Reid.
Asked about the development, Reid said the Ministry of Education had been apprised of the situation and that queries should be directed to the ministry.