BUT SAYS PLAN TO CLEAN ST JOHN PRIMARY SCHOOL WON’T FIX ONGOING PROBLEMS
By Shamar Blunt
The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is not impressed with the Government’s proposal to deal with environmental concerns at the St John Primary School.
Union president Rudy Lovell was adamant that the plan to increase industrial cleaning on the compound, as outlined by Minister of Education Kay McConney at Tuesday’s Parish Speaks town hall meeting in St John was not adequate.
“The school needs a new building. This has been going on for in excess of five years. I know for sure it was ongoing when Minister Santia Bradshaw was the Minister of Education, and before then there were issues at the school,” he told Barbados TODAY on Wednesday.
“The thing is all we are getting is broken promises. Industrial cleaning was done on several occasions at that particular school, [but] there is still mould growth. So to tell me that you are going to industrial clean the building continually suggests that you are not dealing with the real issue because the mould is still recurring.”
During the meeting at the hard courts in Gall Hill, MP for St John Charles Griffith had also revealed that contingency plans were in place if there was more disruption at the school which has recently seen a high rate of student and teacher absences.
He said officials from Codrington College had indicated that space would be made available for students if the need arises.
“They have indicated that yes, they can handle approximately four or five classrooms at the location. I made a site visit next door to the David Thompson Complex and there is one vacant room, so if the Class Fours who number 22 . . . have to move, then it is possible [that] they can be housed at the David Thompson Complex,” he said.
“Based on what the Minister indicated, I believe that the cleaning will be enough to handle the issues that are there, but just in case there is a need for a backup plan, we have that in place.”
However, Lovell was adamant that a permanent and safe solution needed to be found for the 18 teachers and 124 students.
“The teachers would like a healthy working environment, whether that means moving the building or relocating the school to a new building, that is up to the ministry, but we must realise that when teachers experience these unsafe working conditions, it has a lasting effect on their bodies,” the BUT head said.
Last week, several students and teachers did not attend school.
On Wednesday, only five teachers reported for work, while 99 students attended classes. The following day, only three teachers showed up for duty and 80 students went to school.
Then on the last school day of the week, about ten teachers went to work but some of them reported feeling ill and left the compound. Only 25 children were at school that day.
“The union is gravely concerned about the health and safety of students and teachers given the history of illness relating to teachers and students at that school. The effects of the environment are causing teachers and students to fall ill with various respiratory ailments. This is not sitting well with the teachers and they are seeking to get transfers,” Lovell said at the time.