TEACHERS AT RURAL PRIMARY SCHOOL BEG FOR NEW FACILITY, COMPLAINING OF REPEATED ILLNESS
By Sheria Brathwaite
Teachers at St John’s Primary School are pleading for a new school to replace the more than 100-year-old building which they blame for recurring illness, and they have the support of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT).
They say that over the past several years, many teachers and students have fallen ill due to environmental issues at the school plant and have called on authorities to give them a new one.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY on Wednesday, BUT president Rudy Lovell said not enough was being done to address the issue, even with cases of sickness among staff and students.
He agreed that the soft stone structure needed to be demolished and a new school erected.
“Something is definitely wrong at the school. It is an ageing school, being built over 100 years ago. I think that they should close the school and build a new one because the absenteeism is high and teachers and students shouldn’t be forced to go through the same thing every school year,” he said.
“Teachers are constantly on sick leave complaining of sinusitis issues, hoarseness and itchy skin. This issue has been going on for quite some time. It seems like every year the ministry is just coming in and doing treatments but every year the situation is getting worse. Teachers are complaining that they are seeing mould in a number of areas including cupboards,” he reported.
Lovell said the BUT had highlighted this kind of issue on numerous occasions at various schools but noted that limestone buildings, like St John’s Primary School, were particularly affected.
He noted that they tend to hold a lot of moisture and even mushrooms grew from some areas of the prefab buildings.
“This week alone, three teachers have gone on sick leave; two of them are new teachers and since coming to the school they have reported being constantly ill. We have even heard of reports of teachers who don’t have asthma being prescribed inhalers following medical examinations. They have reported being congested and having constant coughs.
“It has even been a problem among the children. They too are going off sick with chest colds and runny noses and coming back to the same environment,” the union head said.
Lovell added that parents had also complained about the situation and those who had the means to transfer their children to other schools had done so.
“The numbers are dwindling each year. Parents have been transferring their children because of these environmental issues,” he said.
The student roll is about 124.
Several efforts made by Barbados TODAY to reach Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw about the concerns were unsuccessful up to Thursday.