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School problems at Marabella and Williamsville

By CECILY ASSON Tuesday, January 21 2014

TEACHERS and students stayed away from classes yesterday at the Marabella South Secondary School.

They took such action following a letter issued by school officials on Friday about a situation at the school which has resulted in several students falling ill due to “an unknown substance.” They had to seek medical attention.

There are health concerns at the school believed to be caused by the exposure to fibre-glass which have left students and teachers “itching.”

Concerns are also mounting at Williamsville Secondary School over pigeon droppings in the classrooms on the Form 3 Block, which according to teachers, are not only affecting their health, but also those of their students.

They told Newsday that the desks, tables chairs and flooring at the school were often covered with faeces and feathers from the pigeons. The situation they said posed a serious danger to health. Already several students and one teacher have fallen ill, since the problem began last November, Newsday was informed.

On Friday last at Marabella South Secondary School, in letters which were signed by a senior staff member and handed to students, parents were told that the situation was under investigation by the Ministry of Education and the San Fernando City Corporation. It also listed “tests conducted by Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI).”

“The Public Health Inspector (IV) of the Corporation, also advised that they seek alternative accommodation, pending results of the test.”

Last week Wednesday 12 students who displayed an allergic reaction to fibre-glass had to be rushed to the nearby Marabella Health Centre, for treatment.

They told Newsday yesterday, the few students who showed up for classes remained in the school’s hall where they were supervised until they were dismissed at 2.30 pm.

Classes, they added, were regularly interrupted during the last term, due to a faulty air-conditioning system.

When contacted yesterday, the Communications Unit of the Education Ministry said they were aware of the existing problem at the school, but classes were being conducted in the school hall. They however knew nothing of similar problems existing at the Williamsville Secondary School.

The statement explained, “There are classes going on at Marabella South Secondary. However, they have some disruption of classes resulting in early dismissal. We have a confirmation from EFCL who are aware of the situation, and are working to do the necessary corrections. Classes are being held in the school hall in the meantime.”

The Ministry of Education said there was a plan of action at the affected school in which the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) was working to do the necessary corrections.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Davanand Sinanan told Newsday he was not happy with how the dangerous situation was being handled by the Ministry.

Sinanan said, “The authority seems to be very cagey as to what the situation is, and that is part of my problem. I’ve been talking to teachers and they are not clear on what is really happening, as they are not being properly informed.

He expressed disgust that despite the health risks at the school, the students were still kept in school for the entire day.

Sinanan asked, “How can you keep classes in the school hall? That is a secondary school; that is absolute nonsense,” he continued. “On Friday all students were kept in the school hall, and that is crazy; you can’t keep them in the hall all the time.

Sinanan said he was informed that not all of the fibre-glass was removed when repair works were being carried out on the air-condition system.

When asked about the situation at Williamsville Secondary School, he said he was unaware..

The Educations Ministry however told Newsday that classes are back to normal at Williamsville. It also assured that action was being taken to resolve the problem.

The statement added: “Part of the plan is to relocate some of the classes away from the area where there is the situation. They have already contacted a contractor to address the issue,” the statement said of Wiliamsville Secondary School.

Sinanan also spoke of problems at Erin Road and Siparia Union Presbyterians Primary Schools that are overrun with rats, and also have sewer problems.

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