Teachers walk off the job in Tobago
By KARL E CUPID Tobago Bureau Thursday, September 13 2012
Teachers at the Speyside High School, in east Tobago, and at the Scarborough Roman Catholic (RC) Primary School, have walked off the job leaving operations at both schools in limbo.
In fact, at Scarborough RC, where parents of pupils of Standards One to Three had been advised to keep their children at home on Monday and Tuesday, classes overall have now been suspended indefinitely as the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) has deemed the 100-year-old building “unsafe,” Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Secretary of Education Whitney Alfred revealed yesterday.
He said the TTUTA representative indicated this action was taken out of concern over the danger being posed by the flooring.
Additionally, Alfred reported that a stage, on which a class was accommodated, at Scarborough RC, had caved in. He said, however, that an engineer at the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (DIPU) had yesterday determined that the structural integrity of the school building was intact.
Alfred said a further inspection by DIPU engineers and the Health and Safety Manager from the Office of the Chief Secretary, is to be conducted. With regard to alternative plans for the education of the Scarborough RC students, he said the school’s Parent Teachers Association (PTA) was to hold discussions on the matter. He said the school is to be replaced, with plans drawn and a site for the new school identified at Smithfield, near to the Pentecostal Church in the area.
Alfred said it would cost approximately $40 million, but parliamentary (national budget) allocations to the THA in this regard over the past five years had been minimal - $500,000 (2007-2008); $700,000 (2008-2009); $400,000 (2009-2010); $10 million (2010-2011); and $2 million for the 2011/2012 financial year.
In the meantime, he said repairs could be effected to keep the school in operation until the new institution comes on stream. He claimed the problem at Scarborough RC was not exclusively that of the THA Education Division, but also that of the Catholic Board which has responsibility for maintenance and repairs.
At Speyside High, Alfred said, the problem is a malfunctioning centralised air conditioning unit in one section of the school, at Block D. He said the unit has been perennially malfunctioning and every time it is repaired, it would only work for a few days. He said there were two options – either acquire a new centralised unit, or several smaller units for each room in that Block. At present, with the teachers off the job, Alfred said the principal had no alternative but to send home the children. What happens today, and in the future is anybody’s guess, he added.
Alfred explained that the affected Block accommodates only the art room and other specialised classes. He said there was no problem with the air condition unit at the general office which houses the staff room, and ancillary staff. “Therefore only teachers who teach in the specialised areas have been directly affected by the malfunctioning of the centralised unit. It is therefore difficult to understand, or appreciate the logic, or reasoning for all the teachers (at Speyside High) to walk off their jobs”, said Alfred.