Despite education officials reporting a successful start to the new school year, President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Rudy Lovell has expressed concern about three schools remaining closed because of ongoing repairs.
So concerned was Lovell about what he referred to as a recurring situation, that he suggested that perhaps the time had come for the Educational Technical Management Unit (ETMU) under which school repairs fall to become a separate unit from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEVT) and be given independent funding.
The BUT head complained that the Ministry of Education approached school repairs the same way every year but expected to get a different result.
He pointed out that during the September 12-16 planning week, teachers had to be at school plants while construction and industrial cleaning were ongoing – a practice which Lovell said the union was opposed to as it could affect the safety and health of teachers.
“Today, the 19th of September, media reports have informed of at least three schools not opening due to incomplete renovations, while others have been impacted by last-minute industrial cleaning which, in some cases, were completed late last night,” Lovell said in a media statement.
“This is so despite numerous assurances from the Ministry of Education that the renovations and industrial cleaning would have been completed on time to facilitate the proper start of the 2022-2023 academic school year.”
On Sunday, Minister of Education Kay McConney announced that due to incomplete repairs, the resumption of classes at Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School and the Eden Lodge Nursery School would be delayed by a week, while the Gordon Walters Primary School will open later this week.
The reopening of Gordon Walters Primary School was delayed to ensure that the smell of paint dissipates and to allow for final touches before students return to the location. The Minister also explained that there was ongoing work on the windows at Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School which underwent a complete overhaul.
In addition to the issues with school repairs, Lovell indicated that the BUT had received reports from teachers who were either without suitable furniture or any at all.
He pointed out that this lack of proper seating exposed educators to the onset of musculoskeletal disorders, and said he hoped the problem would be speedily rectified.
Barbados TODAY’s efforts to reach Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw to respond to the BUT president’s concerns were unsuccessful.
She had said earlier in the day that the school term had started smoothly for the most part.
Meanwhile, President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman, told Barbados TODAY she did not receive any major reports from any of her shop stewards about problems or concerns at their schools.
“The only thing is that there is continuing work on just two sections of Princess Margaret Secondary, in the home economics and agricultural science labs and a section of the boy’s bathroom area, which is expected to be finished this week. But other than that, I have had no reports of problems from our shop stewards on this first day. I am satisfied and hoping that we can have a safe and productive term,” Redman said.