The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has called on corporate Barbados to help maintain schools across the island and suggested that Government offer incentives for businesses to do so.
And while the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has indicated it is open to discussions on the matter, it says certain conditions would have to be in place for such an arrangement to be possible.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, BUT president Rudy Lovell said that based on the number of schools in need of major repair, it appeared the Ministry of Education did not have the financial resources to deal with outstanding issues.
He suggested that the private sector should partner with the Government to ensure students have access to a comfortable learning environment with all the necessary amenities and facilities.
“It is time that we look at alternative methods of getting schools rectified for service, in that the Ministry of Education may be hard-pressed in terms of finding the financial resources needed to refurbish and repair some of our schools. I think it is a prime opportunity for the private sector to play a critical role in the development of education in Barbados,” Lovell said.
“I believe that the private sector can reach out to the Ministry to have some form of partnership where they would offer the necessary funds to carry out the remedial work in schools and the Government, in turn, can probably provide some form of tax incentive or write-offs that would enable the private sector to be able to contribute in a meaningful way.
“There are so many schools that need work done to bring them back to a level of acceptability but the constant refrain you’re hearing is that there is no money to do ‘x’, there is no money to do ‘y’. While we appreciate that, we don’t necessarily want a case where the schools are inhabited in a condition that we don’t believe they should be inhabited when there are alternatives to getting the work done. So, we are putting an alternative on the table for the Ministry of Education and for the public of Barbados to explore,” the trade unionist said.
In October, the BUT’s health and safety committee chairman Julian Pierre reported to Barbados TODAY that the summer rehabilitation programme at the island’s schools was hindered by a lack of funding and shoddy workmanship that left some campuses plagued by mould, leaky roofs, overgrown fields and termite-infested walls.
BCCI president Anthony Branker told Barbados TODAY that while the private sector was willing to help in the repair and upkeep of schools, the Government must also be willing to put certain measures in place to facilitate the work.
“I think it is something that needs to be discussed at the Social Partnership level. I think that if businesses do invest in the upkeep of schools, Government should be willing to give some type of concession for businesses that do so,” he said.
“It takes two hands to clap so you can’t put all the burden on the private sector. The Government would have to put some arrangement in place where we would be able to get some level of concessions as a result of the work that is done through the Ministry of Education.”
Branker stressed that the well-being of students and the upkeep of their schools are matters that should not be ignored.
“We have to put all of our heads together, not only on the private sector end but also on the Government end to see what is the best option. So yes, I would be open to those types of discussions but I think that we all have to come to the table,” he said.
Last week, Minister of Education Kay McConney also welcomed the assistance of the business community in the investigation into the environmental issues plaguing the Lawrence T. Gay Memorial School.
“We are continuing to accept any offer of support from others in the private sector, or anywhere in the Caribbean or the world who might be able to help us further identify [the problem],” she said then.
Apart from the Lawrence T. Gay Memorial School, the BUT has reported serious environmental issues affecting St John Primary School, Wesley Hall Infants School, Deacon’s Primary School, Eden Lodge Primary School, St. George Primary School, Christ Church Girls’ School and The Ellerslie School.
Last week, the St Boniface Nursery School was also closed due to a mould infestation and students and teachers have been relocated for the rest of the term. (SB)