|After Christmas blues for some schools |
Tuesday, January 7 2014
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Break time: Students of St Gabriel Girls' RC School, San Fernando on a break from classes yesterday. ...
Although the Ministry of Education stated the opening of the second school term yesterday was 99.7 percent successful, some schools around the country reported problems on their first day after the Christmas holidays.
“We have been receiving lots of calls from disgruntled teachers and principals who are dissatisfied by the situation they met this morning,” said Lindsay Doodhai, second vice president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA).
Doodhai said schools with recurring problems such as Elswick Presbyterian, Tunapuna Government and Lower Cumuto Government primary schools all faced difficulty yesterday.
Last year, Elswick closed a week early at the end of the term due to a leaking sewer. The stench from the raw sewage wafted through buildings surrounding the area including the nearby Presbyterian Church. Doodhai said no repairs were done on the sewage system and the principal was forced to suspend classes.
Tunapuna Government also had problems with the sewer system yesterday, as it did last year.
Students of Lower Cumuto were forced to go home early because the school was not ready to open, according to Doodhai.
He said Lower Cumuto was supposed to have a new building constructed; however, when the students arrived Doodhai said the new building was not finished and the old building was locked and not available for the students to occupy. Because of this, the principal was forced to send the students and teachers home.
Classes were also suspended at North Manzanilla Government Primary School due to what Doodhai described as the “building falling apart.”
St Mary’s Government Primary School in Moruga, Doodhai said, also had an ongoing problem with their sewer system which was not rectified during the vacation, and because of that, the school dismissed early.
TTUTA president Devanand Sinanan expressed concern for the schools that had problems opening. He was concerned further for the schools he believed were not ready to be opened, but were.
Other schools TTUTA said had problems were Barataria Boys’ RC School, Matelot Community College, and Malick Government Secondary.
Malick was closed for most of the last term because of mould. Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) air tested the school which is being ice blasted to remove the mould. The Ministry said classes will resume on January 13.
Education Minister Tim Gopeesingh yesterday stated he is looking into reducing the number of vacation days schools have during the academic year.
Responding to Gopeesingh’s statement, Sinanan said, according to the Education Act, schools are supposed to have 39 teaching weeks.
Sinanan further said if Gopeesingh changes the vacation days of the students then he is also changing the vacation days of teachers and that would cause a renegotiation of teachers’ terms and conditions of employment.
However, Sinanan said TTUTA is willing to engage in discussions with Gopeesingh whenever he is ready to hold consultations about changing the vacation days of students.
Yolanda Morales-Carvalho, media relations officer for the Ministry of Education said because many of the nation’s schools are more than 50-years-old they are in need of continuous repair.
Repair works are being done after classes and during the weekend on the schools that still need repairs.
Speaking about Lower Cumuto, Morales-Carvalho said, “The Ministry is building a new school but because of the weather it would take less than a month to finish.”
Arrangements were done for the school to continue in the old building. The school will reopen today.
Morales-Carvalho said the Ministry had not received any report about Elswick Presbyterian.
She further said school repairs were stalled because of the rain.
“Every time it rains, there are problems. It rained over the weekend and it affected the ceiling of the schools,” Morales-Carvalho said.
Addressing the issue of reducing the vacation days, Morales-Carvalho said the Minister is doing research to see if increasing teaching days is better for students.
She further stated vacation days for students were not listed in the Education Act, and the Ministry will hold consultations with stakeholders before any action to change vacation days are done.
Newsday was unable to reach Gopeesingh for a comment.