A new perimeter fence is to be built at the Ellerton Primary School to address security fears among teachers and stop intruders after three incidents this week, Acting Minister of Education Senator Lucille Moe revealed today.
“We are aware of what needs to be done and we are working on it. It is clear that there are fencing issues and we have addressed those. We had quotations done for new fencing and so by next week the process of the new fence should have started,” Senator Moe told journalists following a walk-through of the St George school this morning.
President of Barbados Union of Teachers Sean Spencer yesterday revealed that since an apparently mentally unstable man intruded on the premises on Monday, two other intruders trespassed without perimeter fencing or security guards.
The details surrounding the two most recent intrusions are not known. Barbados TODAY was unable to reach Spencer for his reaction to the ministry’s response.
Spencer said: “Another incident, of the same nature, occurred on February 13 further compromising the operational tone of the school and causing those present – students, teachers and ancillary staff – mental duress. Today, another intruder trespassed onto the school’s compound.”
The union leader said Monday’s intruder was a repeat offender and that encounter was especially traumatic.
But Senator Moe explained that for years villagers have been using the school as shortcut with the understanding that they only do so after school hours when the gates are left open for that expressed purpose.
The minister said a fence would maintain the balance between school time and community access.
She said: “We think that we can alleviate some of the issues because this school is in the middle of a community and people use the school as a shortcut to traverse to the Northern side. So the school explained that this has been a pattern that has been going on for some time and they don’t have a problem with it happening as long as it does not happen during school hours. Obviously for security and safety of the children, members of community would have to take an alternate route during school hours.”
But while the Ministry of Education has acceded to demands for a fence, the issue of posting security guards to the rural school has proved problematic as security guards and general workers have become casualties of Government job cuts under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme.
Senator Moe said: “As with everything that we have to do as it relates to efforts to stabilise the county, we have to look at this issue [security guards and general workers] very carefully. We will get back to the teachers once we have made a decision as to the way forward.”
Also attending this morning’s walkthrough was St George South MP Dwight Sutherland, who blamed the previous administration for wanton neglect of the school.
Sutherland said: “This issue as it relates to fencing has been around for a long time and it is just an example of the last government would have allowed the physical plant of not just Ellerton but other schools as well to deteriorate. A couple years ago we had challenges where teachers walked off the job because of rat infestation. So we inherited serious deterioration of these schools.”
He encouraged communities and churches to partner with Government to maintain schools during the structural adjustment period.