Three days of torrential rains have exposed flaws in the annual summer maintenance programmes carried out by the Ministry of Education at primary schools across the country.
And, President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd warns that if the Government is unwilling to expend the necessary resources to address poor conditions at some schools, the administration will be compelled to do so when lawsuits are filed on behalf of parents and students who are injured while on the compound.
Leaking classrooms, caving roofs, and deteriorating roads were among some of the issues that were highlighted at and around many of the country’s schools last week during a prolonged rain spell.
The Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School was closed for at least two days to facilitate repairs, but complaints about infrastructural damage have been coming from all angles.
“As one unfolds, then you get teachers at other schools coming forward and reporting similar problems,” Shepherd said, when asked about the extent of the infrastructural woes.
“We had a report that even the new St. Giles Primary School is leaking. So as the story unfolds, you get more and more people coming forward to indicate that they have problems. St Paul’s has a similar problem where they have to get brooms to push water out of the nutrition rooms, and the list goes on.”
To avoid such challenges in the middle of the school year, Shepherd has called for a more comprehensive assessment of schools by Ministry of Education officials when repairs are being conducted.
“I think that when the Ministry [of Education] is about to do the summer works, they need to come to the schools and find out from the people on site what the challenges are. Don’t say ‘I see two rotten boards here, so I am just going to put that in the summer works programme’,” the union leader suggested.
“Examine what is leading to the problems. Look into whether water is running or leaking from somewhere. Come and find out what the issues are so that the summer works programme addresses the problems that we are having at the schools.
“I will not say that the work is substandard… because that would mean that we have been wasting money for years and years. But we need to find out what the problems are, so that we can address them properly,” he added.
Chief Education Officer Joy Adamson last week told Barbados TODAY that she was looking into the ongoing issues.
Shepherd meanwhile said that he was already aware of a handful of civil cases filed in the country’s courts pertaining to students and/or teachers who were injured due to apparent negligence allegedly on the part of the ministry. He suggested that proactive measures could minimize such instances going forward.
“I think the ministry is very familiar with that and if you speak to the Chief Education Officer or the Permanent Secretary, they would tell you the number of instances where people are claiming because of injury on the job,” he pointed out.
“The Ministry of Education may tell you that they don’t have the money or the capacity to fix it and another might have the machinery to do it. Why not share the resources instead of allowing things to happen and then will have to [pay out money].
“If the ministry is being sued for something, then the Government has [to shoulder] the liability and pay out the money,” Shepherd contended.
The BUT head repeated calls for deeper collaboration among government ministries to improve the situation.
“…Things like external draining might be beyond the capacity of the ministry [of education], but certainly you have the ministry responsible for drainage, public works, and I think even the Cabinet has a public works committee where all of those ministers who have ministries that deal with infrastructure have a separate group.
“Why not let these groups of subcommittees within the Cabinet work together?” the BUT president asked. ([email protected])