Tim blames principals
By CECILY ASSON Thursday, September 5 2013
MINISTER of Education, Dr Tim Gopeesingh, has laid blame squarely on the shoulders of the school principals for the confusion now being experienced at several of the nation’s schools.
On Monday, the start of the new academic year, several primary and secondary schools failed to reopen as scheduled — some of the schools that did, were forced to close their doors and send away students because of major problems, among them falling ceilings, pest infestation, and sewer leaks.
Gopeesingh spoke to journalists yesterday at the formal opening of the $25 million spanking new state-of-the-art Monkey Town Government Primary School in Lower Barrackpore.
According to Gopeesingh, the principals failed to comply with rules as stated by the Ministry of Education, and the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) in order to have school repairs done, and in some cases even submitted their projects late.
“There are some that came up in the last week by the principals,” Gopeesingh explained.
“We had a responsibility to move through the school boards. The principals were told to go to the boards, and the boards to us, they chose to hold it, then they gave it to us, the last week of the schools reopening.”
Gopeesingh was not done yet, saying that not even the government schools followed what they were supposed to do, to have their projects completed on time.
He continued, “Then those from government schools were supposed to go through the schools supervisors and to EFCL, the Ministry of Education, the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and these have not been complied with, to a major extent, hence the reason for a number of them being delayed.”
According to Gopeesingh, on the eve of the first day of the new school term, he was assured by EFCL of a smooth reopening.
“Up to Sunday evening when I met with EFCL and everyone,” Gopeesingh said, “we had schools that were not to be opened, and they were opened on Monday, then schools during the week were completed, that is a tremendous task in itself.”
Gopeesingh said it was difficult to say exactly what schools were not going to be opened before the start of the school term, as it was an “evolving process.”
“In 18 months, we had 939 emergency repairs to deal with in the school population, so it is a humongous and mammoth task, so no matter what type of system we implement, you must have a one to two percent area of weakness that you cannot deal with, and that’s a reality,” Gopeesingh said.
Speaking about two of the schools affected this term, he further stated that he and his Government “inherited a horrendous type of air-conditioning system” at the Marabella South and Aranjuez Secondary Schools which they must now spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to repair.
Even former Prime Minister Patrick Manning called on him for help in having the Pleasantville Secondary School reopened on time.
He said, “Former Prime Minister Patrick Manning called me and indicated to me that I should look into the school and immediately I sent a team down, for that is one of the schools we inherited from the former administration with problems.”
He said over the last three years 850 schools have undergone repairs and maintenance programmes to the value of $500 million, utilising 550 small, medium and large contractors.
A total of 196 projects initiated by EFCL and the Education Ministry were completed during the two month vacation period at the early childhood centres, primary and secondary schools, Gopeesingh said.
“At the beginning of this academic year more than 98 percent of our 900 schools have been opened . So here are schools that are experiencing problems and we will continue to work assiduously so that all the students are in school as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile Gopeesingh believes he has accomplished a lot during his stay in the ministry and is not worried with the pending Cabinet reshuffle.