Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw is promising there will be “substantial” rehabilitation work at primary schools next year during the annual summer maintenance programme.
She gave the commitment on Tuesday, as she announced the closure of the Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School for the remainder of this week, due to significant water damage as a result of heavy downpours over a three-day span last week.
Her promise also came on the heels of a warning from President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd, that if the Government did not spend now to correct the poor conditions at some schools, it would be forced to spend heavily to settle lawsuits that could be filed on behalf of parents and students who are injured while on the compound.
The Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School was closed for at least two days to facilitate some repairs and classes were forced to transition to online, but there have been complaints about infrastructural damage at the Pine Plantation Road, St Michael learning institution.
In a statement this evening, Bradshaw acknowledged that the torrential rains had weakened an already ailing school plant, adding that other schools had also experienced significant water damage.
“Wilkie Cumberbatch is actually one of several schools which had been identified for a full rebuild back in 2012, but like most other major projects of the last administration, the funding simply never materialised,” she said.
Noting that over the years conditions at the school continued to deteriorate, Bradshaw said each year only minor works were being carried out on the site while the major infrastructural issues remained unaddressed.
However, she said since the Mia Mottley-led administration came to office at the end of May 2018, it has been conducting assessments and preparing costs for major projects that need to be done.
“Wilkie Cumberbatch was therefore included amongst the seven schools which will now receive electrical upgrades in December of this year, and substantial works at the schools were to be rolled out in 2021 during the domestic summer programme, as it was clear that the neglect of the school was reaching a critical juncture,” the Education Minister said.
“In the interest of ensuring the safety of our teachers and students, the Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School will be closed for the remainder of the week, while further assessments are carried out, and arrangements put in place to address the relocation, if necessary, of our students and staff,” she added.
Bradshaw said while there was no major damage to the prefabricated buildings at the school, the administrative block, which houses the staff room and the principal’s office, had been impacted as well as some classrooms in the main block.
“The Ministry, therefore, regrets the inconvenience caused to parents and guardians, and we will continue to keep you informed as we work towards urgently addressing the situation at the school,” Minister Bradshaw said.