Trade unionist Senator Caswell Franklyn has called on Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw to admit that reopening Parkinson Memorial School for the start of the new term on Monday was a mistake.
He has alleged that “nothing was done” to prepare the Pine, St Michael school for either students or staff.
Minister Bradshaw was reported in another section of the media as saying that Senator Franklyn deliberately misled the public when he made comments on Down to Brass Tacks radio call-in programme today that the public was lied to regarding the readiness of schools for reopening.
She confirmed that a decision was taken after consultation with Ministry officials and the board of management, principal and staff of the school, to close the educational institution for the rest of the week because bed bugs had been discovered in one of the staff rooms on the first day of school.
Bradshaw said teachers were at the school last week for planning meetings and no environmental issues were raised at the time. However, she acknowledged, when a member of the teaching staff complained of being bitten while in the staff room on Monday, a bed bug was subsequently discovered and steps were taken to remedy the situation.
“As for Senator Franklyn, I believe he needs to leave the drama out of education. Our officers, the principals, the teachers and the other unions have been working hard to settle schools and to find the best way to ensure that our children return to the classroom, as well as the teachers, in a safe manner,” she said.
“My Ministry has been open and honest as it relates to the delays and the challenges which we envisage for the start of the term and any issues that would disrupt the reopening of schools. I believe the Chief Education Officer (Acting) would have indicated just a few days ago at our press briefing the schools where we envisaged there would have been difficulties and Parkinson would have been mentioned as one of those schools because we had been alerted to some of the challenges there,” Bradshaw added.
However, Franklyn maintained in an interview with Barbados TODAY that the Ministry of Education had rushed to reopen the school which he insisted was unfit for human habitation.
He accused the Ministry of trying to hide its fault by getting teachers to directly call students and tell them not to come to the school plant, instead of issuing a Public Service Announcement to let the country know what is happening at the institution.
“Poor Minister, she does not know her job and rather than when she makes a mistake, acknowledge it and move on, she is always trying to find a way to defend. She is not going to learn anything if she continues that way. You have maggots, you have bed bugs, how is that school ready for people when the principal [Ian Holder] was on radio and TV saying that things got off without a hitch?” the Opposition Senator charged.
“While he was saying so, the staff was relocating to a lab where there was no bathroom or anything else, when he knew better. So, [I’m] telling myself I can’t believe them because if they are going to lie about the little things, when they have big things now, how am I going to believe them?
“They opened the school and the first day of school when the teachers were teaching, some person come around and tell them to come and get their bags out of the staff room because in there full of bed bugs. The school has not been cleaned, there were maggots in some areas and I am told even the blackboards were not cleaned off since May . . . . Nothing happened at that school,” Senator Franklyn further charged.
Meanwhile, President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd told Barbados TODAY that after being informed of the environmental issues on Tuesday, he visited the institution and met with teachers and Ministry personnel.
“We put the teachers’ concerns to the Acting Chief Education Officer, who I suspect relayed the information to the Minister, and the school is closed for the rest of the week. Arrangements were made for the teachers to work online for the rest of this week and the Ministry of Health is to go in and do the necessary cleaning and eradication of whatever they find.
“Once the cleaning is done there will be some industrial cleaning, I think, and the teachers should be able to go back in next week,” he said.