Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw served notice in Parliament today that repair works at some schools may not be completed in time for the start of the new school year.
During debate on a supplementary appropriation of $175,000 for the Ann Hill School, Bradshaw said that upon taking up office last year, her ministry has had to deal “a serious decay” of school plants.
According to her, additional funds have been allocated for the ministry to undertake work at 41 schools during the domestic “summer” programme. This is more than double the 18 schools which had been allocated in previous years, Bradshaw noted.
While some may argue that this is an ambitious undertaking over the vacation, it was a matter that needed urgent attention, she told fellow lawmakers.
“I cannot wait two, three, four years from now to start to make the school plants comfortable for the persons who have to operate in that environment.
“And therefore, whether it is an issue of environmental problems or whether it is an issue of space it has become of urgent attention within the Ministry of Education to be able to request the dedication of resources to allow the schools to settle.”
Bradshaw noted that while some projects may be completed before the estimate eight-week period, some may need more time.
She said: “We also have to budget in the course of the summer vacation for things that are unforeseen because we don’t know what awaits us in terms of a hurricane season so with all the best intentions and being able to accomplish the domestic summer programme … the reality is that there are some external factors that may also impact on our ability to do so.
“So Madam Chair I would like the members here [and] certainly the wider Barbados to appreciate from now that there will be some schools that we’re going to have to open later. Maybe a week later, maybe two weeks later.”
She knocked the previous Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration’s for failing to put in place a proper maintenance programme for schools, which she said contributed to the current problems.
Bradshaw said: “These were things that could have been addressed over the course of the past decade but the priorities of the last administration clearly was not to focus on the maintenance and putting in particular a proper domestic maintenance programme for the respective institutions under their portfolio.
“It isn’t to say that monies were not spent, because we can see from the records that monies were spent.
“But I believe that what we have seen transpire is the inability to be able to not just send out carpenters and masons and labourers to be able to do work on an emergency basis, but also we have a situation that now sees it necessary to be able to have a proper maintenance programme in place for the school plants.”
She also announced that the ministry has engaged the services of 18 new contractors, and declared that she will not accept shoddy work this year.
“While I am fair in the sense that we must have new entrants and we must have established persons, equally, Madam Chair, I have let them know that I will not be tolerating the poor workmanship that I have seen in some cases across some of these school plants.
“Because it has been costing the taxpayers money, it has been eating up the resources of the Ministry of Education in a way that has made it difficult for us to be able to spend on the much needed resources that are required within the Ministry of Education.”