Yet another school in Barbados has been forced to close its doors owing to unhealthy conditions.
The latest is Vauxhall Primary. Yesterday, a decision was taken by the Ministry of Education to close the Christ Church school for the rest of the week to allow for repairs and thorough cleaning.
Parents staged a quiet protest outside of the school – with some even deciding to keep their charges at home – claiming that the unsanitary conditions which their children were being forced to learn in were making them sick.
Not only students were affected, though, as teachers were also being affected, leading to a high level of absenteeism.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw was quickly on the scene. She readily admitted a litany of woes: plumbing issues, a garbage collection area in need of cleaning and bathroom facilities deserving an upgrade.
Following a meeting with parents and other ministry officials, she said: “The Ministry of Education would have been aware of some issues at the school.
“I think many of you would be aware that many of these issues are not new, but equally they are of deep concern to several of the parents and students and indeed to the ministry.
“We had started the process in December of having the personnel along with environmental health visit the school with the view to identifying areas of priority so that we would be able to acquire the finances to start the work that was necessary to be carried out.”
While Bradshaw should be praised for her swift efforts to address the issues not only at Vauxhall but at several other schools across the island which have been plagued with environmental problems, the situation paints a dire picture of the state of affairs of Government’s management of schools.
If the education ministry was indeed aware of the issues at the school, why was nothing done in a speedy manner to address them?
Did it take a ‘sickout’ from teachers and protest from parents for urgent action to be taken?
Ironically, no such issues have been reported at any of the numerous private primary and secondary schools in Barbados.
One could only conclude this is because those particular schools are properly cleaned on a regular basis.
It is also interesting to note that not only schools have been forced to either shut or relocate due to environmental issues, as several state-owned buildings have also been affected.
These developments call into question past or present specific protocols for maintaining its properties.
While it may be true that many of these buildings are age-old and in desperate need of being rebuilt, it is glaringly obvious that little or no maintenance has been done on them in recent years.
Students spend the majority of their waking moments at school. It is supposed to be a safe and secure environment, where parents expect their children to receive a proper education.
What has been allowed to develop, however, is a situation where schools have now become “danger zones”.
Teachers and parents in some instances are left with mounting medical bills due to complications brought on by unhealthy conditions at some of these schools.
These closures and relocations also have an adverse effect on the students themselves, hampering their preparations for crucial exams.
It is simply unacceptable for a country which prides itself in having a high percentage of literate people to have those same institutions unfit to play a critical roll in educating its citizens.
Now is not the time for the blame game, but it is imperative that action is taken to ensure that our children’s schools are safe, healthy and conducive to learning.