The Ministry of Education is gearing up to inject an estimated $2 million into repairing and refurbishing school plants, and treating to environmental issues, over the lengthy summer vacation.
Word of this came from Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw who told Barbados TODAY that this past week she has been engaging in discussions with ministry officials and partners regarding plans for the ministry’s Domestic Summer Programme.
She said though discussions were still ongoing, about 16 schools had been identified so far, to benefit from this year’s programme.
“We have sat down over the last few days, looking at the list of concerns that we have in terms of environmental issues, in terms of termites, in terms of allocation of spaces across the school plants, and just the general problems that we are facing. There are a lot of schools that we have to deal with and if you ask every school, you would find a problem at every school.
“And in an environment where there are limited resources, you would appreciate we have to budget accordingly based on the resources that we have. But what we have agreed is that we are going to be prudent,” she said.
The Minister shared that one of the challenges being faced was that several of the older school plants were made of soft stone material, and as a consequence they require significant maintenance.
However, she gave the assurance that all options were being looked into, to ensure there would not be any quick fixes in any particular area, space or building.
“We are really trying to get an idea of what the issues are at the schools. So that when we make our decisions about the summer programme, it is against a background where we can certainly justify and defend the schools that have been selected.
“The reason for the summer programme is that it is the longest period that we have to do extensive works. So the projects that fall within the summer programme are those projects, which we cannot do during the Easter vacation, we can’t do it during the Christmas period and we can’t do it during school time.
“We’ve got serious issues across the schools and some of them would need to be closed for longer periods for all the work to be done. But we are really trying to prioritise the schools in densely populated areas. We had an initial list, but we are drilling down and we are asking questions and the officers are having to go back into the field to get answers to the questions that we have proposed or to reconfigure the justification in order to allow us to make the right decisions,” she said.
Minister Bradshaw also stressed that the two major teachers’ unions would be involved in the discussions regarding the summer programme. She said she believes that the ministry must repair a damaged relationship with the unions.
“So we intend to meet with them and have them be a part of those discussions and to be able to explain to them some of the challenges that we are having so that they can also be able to appreciate why we may not be able to in the summer programme or throughout this financial year, but to give some assurances that we understand what the problems are and we are doing our best to be able to nip some of those problems in the bud,” she said.
An effective maintenance programme is also being established. Bradshaw said this was a necessary move since in the past the ministry focused on emergency repairs, and has not paid much needed attention to preventative care.
She mentioned that a number of schools have been on a list for repairs, but the work kept being pushed back because of various factors.
“I have made a call to get corporate entities and teachers and students on board. You are going to start to see that rolling out shortly because a couple companies and Parent Teacher Associations have responded to that call.
“I believe that once we can start to champion some schools in some of these efforts it will certainly inspire other people to get on board with the ministry to get what needs to be done, interms of the environment at the schools, done,” Bradshaw said. [email protected]