Long before layoffs in the public service began, schools across Barbados were not being properly cared for.
That was revealed by Minister of Labour Colin Jordan, who today said that even when there was a full complement of general workers, schools were still not being thoroughly cleaned.
Over 1,000 public servants have already lost their jobs and more job losses are expected as the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme moves into phase three in a few weeks.
Yesterday while speaking in Parliament before the Standing Finance Committee, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw acknowledged that layoffs had affected her ministry’s ability to provide proper maintenance to primary schools across the island.
“As a result of the BERT programme we had to remove the general workers from several of the institutions. Currently we are obviously grappling with an issue in terms of human resources within the various school plants,” Bradshaw admitted.
However, speaking to the media after a tour of the Barbados Agricultural Development Management Corporation (BADMC), Jordan said based on what his ministry had found when the team went out into the field, some schools had been neglected even before the beginning of Government’s retrenchment exercise.
He said simple cleaning procedures such as sweeping, mopping and cobwebbing had not been done.
“There are teachers and there are students existing in these spaces, but even before separations from the public service, my ministry’s reports indicate that there were basic cleaning activities that weren’t taking place, so I don’t feel that the separations from the public service would have impacted that which I was specifically referring to.
“Those findings pre-date separations from the public service, so that I would have met with officers in my ministry who would have visited schools and this is before the middle of last year, they would have seen situations where there was cobweb that obviously had not been moved in months, there were floors that had not been scrubbed or mopped for a while. It was evident,” the minister said.
“That tells me that having full complements of staff does not translate into proper cleaning. And I think the Prime Minister would have hit the nail on the head when she intervened to speak to the whole idea of leadership and I think the issue in schools, which is the issue in many organisations is the matter of leadership, monitoring, follow ups and holding people accountable.”
Jordan said it was important for Government to ensure that its services were not compromised as a result of the layoffs.
“So while we talk about separations from the public service, we need to make sure that functions do not fall through the cracks,” he maintained.