The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is calling on authorities to thoroughly investigate factors outside the Lawrence T Gay Memorial Primary School, which may be contributing to environmental problems at the institution.
President Rudy Lovell told Barbados TODAY that up to late Friday evening, the Ministry of Education had not informed teachers about the findings of a report from public health officials that was supposed to be completed by the end of the day.
“I have been trying to reach the Chief Education Officer all day and I have gotten no response,” Lovell disclosed.
“What I can say is that I spoke with my members at the school who have indicated that the Clarke block at the school was closed today and I also was informed that the ministry is awaiting a response from the Ministry of the Environment or Ministry of Health after carrying out their investigations to see what the source of the contaminant is,” he added.
Friday was the third straight day that approximately 150 students, including those preparing for this year’s Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination, were unable to attend classes.
According to reports, students and teachers in class 2 and class 4 were complaining of a “gaseous” scent which was causing a burning sensation in their eyes, throat and skin. The persistent complaints prompted an investigation from the Education Technical Management Unit who alerted public health officials.
However, the BUT president said he had reason to believe that not all of the recommendations from an environmental report in 2020, were implemented. He did not specify, but suggested that “neighbouring environments” be investigated.
“To the ministry’s credit, they tried to rectify the problem back in 2020 when they did some remedial work, but my source has indicated that all of the recommendations from the environmental report have not been implemented and I don’t know if that has contributed to the problem,” Lovell told Barbados TODAY.
“I think teachers, like most people in Barbados, are hoping for a safe working environment. We would want to be in an environment where we can feel free to do what we are being paid to do without having to worry about falling ill, feeling intoxicated from any smell, any noise from neighbouring environments. Teachers just want to be able to carry out their duties in a safe manner,” he added.
Efforts to reach the Chief Education Officer up to press time have been unsuccessful. And, while the BUT president could not say whether the environment would be suitable for teachers to return next week, he insisted that his members were eager to get back to work.
“If you know the nature of a teacher, teachers are eager to get back into the classroom. Regardless of what people may say, teachers are anxious to teach and given the fact that the Common Entrance exam is around the corner and some of the students that are displaced are Class 4s, I know my teachers are anxious to get back into the classroom to make up for the lost time over the past week,” Lovell added. [email protected]