PTAs of two schools protest closure
By Rachael Espinet Saturday, October 19 2013
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PROTEST: Parents and students from Diego Martin Secondary and South East PoS Secondary protesting yesterday outside the Ministry of Education in St Cl...
Parent bodies of two schools simultaneously descended yesterday on the Ministry of Education Head Office in St Clair to protest the schools being closed for weeks.
The parents of South East Port-of-Spain Secondary School and Diego Martin Boys’ RC Primary School gathered outside the Ministry, unknown to each other, to lobby for their children’s to return to school. Together the coincidental joint protest had brought scores of parents and students demanding the schools reopen.
The protesters threatened to abstain from voting on Monday’s Local Government elections as the large group, including children, chanted “No school, no vote.”
An hour into the joint protest, three representatives from each school held a meeting with the ministry officials, the Chief Education Officer (CEO), Harrilal Seecharan, and the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) officials to discuss the problems.
Two weeks into the school term, South East Port-of-Spain was closed, because of infrastructural problems. On Thursday South East’s Parent Teachers Association (PTA) had a meeting with the school’s supervisor to discuss the issues going on at the school. Following that meeting, the parents decided to protest.
Fifteen-year-old Shaquille Noreiga, a Form Four student from the school told Newsday the school has become so “dilapidated” that the students could barely function.
“The school is very old most of the labs in our school were destroyed because of leaky roofs and the heavy rains. Every day is a challenge to go to school,” Noreiga said.
He said aside from the leaky roof, there are problems with the ceiling, guttering, air condition units, floors, windows and even a dust problem.
Noreiga said, the dust is particularly problematic because he is asthmatic, and every day he goes to school, he risks getting an attack.
“Even if it is a challenge, I still try to make it to school because I want to be successful,” he said. Noreiga was one of many students who showed up to protest in their uniform to declare that the students were ready for school. “If we are out of school, then we will not do well. We will be the ones to take care of the country in the future. If we are not in school, then no one will have a good future,” he said.
Yorka Phillips, a mother of a Form One student told Newsday, at the PTA meeting it was disclosed by the school’s supervisor that the contractor who was hired said he and his crew would not work unless they had the police and army as security guards.
However, Newsday obtained information that the community did not want the contractor hired to work on the school. Instead, the community wanted people from Nelson Street to do the school repairs. This the person said delayed the school repairs.
After approximately two hours in the meeting the three representatives from South East told the protesters the school will reopen on October 28. During that time, the roof, guttering, ceiling, air-conditioning unit and windows will be repaired. As well, the EFCL will look into the issue of holes in the floors. If the repairs are not done by the October 28 deadline, then other arrangements for the students will be made.
Diego Martin Boys has had a persistent pigeon problem since the last school term. The school was closed five weeks before the official end of term.
However, the school was sanitised, the school was repaired and the pigeons were exterminated.
A month into the new school year, the pigeons returned to the school. Reports from the school said there have been students and teachers who have submitted sick leave due to the pigeons.
However, the ministry’s officials said that they have received no reports of children or teachers having sick leave.