Government has not forgotten the Elliott Belgrave Primary School, or any other state-owned institution experiencing environmental issues, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw has told Barbados TODAY.
The school at Gays, St Peter, which has been closed in recent days to complete industrial cleaning in an effort to resolve environmental issues that have affected staff and students, is to benefit from the ministry’s Domestic Summer Programme, she said.
Following a recent meeting with Prime Minister Mia Mottley and education officials, a decision was made to increase funding for the repair programme, the education minister added.
The Ministry of Finance has given the Ministry of Education an extra $2 million on top of the $1.8 million that had been initially allocated in the 2019 Appropriations Bill for repairing and refurbishing school plants.
Minister Bradshaw said: “While we are well aware that there are a number of demands on the Government’s resources because of the poor maintenance of a number of structures and certainly a number of institutions across the country, that meeting would have highlighted and assured the unions in particular, and the country, that resources were being applied by the Ministry of Finance to assist us with the Domestic Summer Programme.
“Within the last few days, the Ministry of Education has been working through the technical unit to be able to allocate those funds. And I can say and gave the assurance to the teachers, students and parents that Elliott Belgrave will receive some funding this summer to be able to address these issues.
“Until we are in a position to access funding in terms of loan financing and major funding, obviously we are going to have to continue to be able to address and just deal with the remedial problems from time to time.
“But we are moving in that direction where we are looking at obviously obtaining financing and putting together the proposals for a number of those schools that have to be reconstructed. We are sensitive to the issues across all of the schools, not just Elliott Belgrave.”
Last week, classes at Elliott Belgrave were disrupted as teachers stayed away from the building, citing environmental concerns.
Some teachers even conducted classes outdoors, as students sat in chairs under trees.
President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Sean Spencer told Barbados TODAY that several teachers had to seek medical attention for respiratory and other health related issues that may have been caused by the environmental conditions there.
Elliott Belgrave was one of two schools to be among the first to be completely rebuilt under a programme that was implemented by the last administration, but never got underway, Bradshaw said.
According to ministry records, she added, there was an ongoing maintenance programme annually to address a number of the problems confronting student and staff at the primary school.
“The last administration would have delayed significantly in allowing this project to come to fruition. As a consequence, a number of the school plants that were supposed to be either completely reconstructed or major renovations were supposed to take place, those things never came to fruition and that’s why we have been dealing with a number of major issues across the plants, particularly environmental issues.
“The plant at Elliott Belgrave is also an aging plant and there are a lot of environmental issues there. From what I can see from the record, there have been a number of interventions in terms of addressing the issue of mould at the school.
“In March 2017, August 2017, September of 2018, there have been interventions by the Ministry to basically clean mould at various areas within the premises, and to also address issues of termite infestation as well. We have been addressing things like fixing roof leaks, and cracks in the walls.
School is to resume at Elliott Belgrave on Tuesday.