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Some schools fail to open

By Rachael Espinet Wednesday, September 3 2014

click on pic to zoom in
A student from Tranquillity Government Primary School in Port-of-Spain leaves at the end  of the first day of the news school term yesterday. ...
A student from Tranquillity Government Primary School in Port-of-Spain leaves at the end of the first day of the news school term yesterday. ...

WHILE most schools opened yesterday, a few schools throughout the country either did not open their gates to their students or were forced to close early for different reasons.

“While many schools were opened, teachers were confronted with unsatisfactory conditions in many schools . . . TTUTA reiterates that teachers reserve the right to remove themselves from any workplace that poses a threat to their health and safety,” said Davanand Sinanan, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA), in a release yesterday.

However, according to the Ministry of Education, of the 243 primary and secondary schools under the Vacation Repair Programme (VRP) this year, only one school, St Theresa’s RC Primary in Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, remained closed.

The VRP is the plan of action the ministry undertakes every year during the July/August vacation to ensure that schools are ready for the new school year. Earlier in the year, principals were expected to provide a list of repairs needed for their schools and the ministry would try to fix the schools during the vacation.

The Educational Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) undertook repairs and maintenance projects in 243 primary and secondary schools and 73 early childhood care and education (ECCE) centres around the country.

“It was a tremendous success. We repaired 243 schools and 73 ECCE centres. I feel very confident that this has been a tremendous success. Only St Theresa remained closed. That was the information EFCL provided,” Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said.

This VRP was more successful this year than last year, when more than 25 schools around the country were not ready for the new academic year. Only one school was not officially opened, the ministry said, and a few schools dismissed early.

Ministry officials stated that the tiling of the girls’ bathroom at St Theresa’s was still being done, and the school is expected to open in two days.

Students and their parents showed up at the school yesterday but were turned away. However, some students, whose parents were unable to pick them up at the time, spent their day in the church. TTUTA also told of problems at other schools. The Arima Hindu Primary School on Temple Street opened for its students promptly at 8.30 am, but reports state that teachers walked off the school compound at about 10 am.

According to TTUTA, the teachers cited health violations to the OSH Act. TTUTA said the building was not safe for occupation due to a mosquito infestation, poor lighting and ventilation, classrooms with no doors, insufficient furniture, and mossy floors.

TTUTA also stated that Morvant Secondary Government School did not open. According to the association, approximately 25 metres of the perimeter wall collapsed, leaving the school vulnerable.

The parent of a Form Two boy who attends Morvant/Laventille Secondary School called Newsday to complain about the school’s closure. She said parents received a letter explaining that structural damage to the school’s wall caused a health and safety issue.

At about 11 am yesterday, parents were called to collect their children from Tranquillity Government Primary School. TTUTA said the roof of the toilet collapsed and that the school is infested with rats and cockroaches.

TTUTA said Cumuto Presbyterian School had a leaking, termite-riddled roof that collapsed and the building is bat infested. An official from the ministry told Newsday they are not aware of problems in that school.

TTUTA said Couva West Secondary School also dismissed early due to non-functioning air-conditioning units.

The students of North Manzanilla Government Primary School were not able to attend school due to the ceiling falling apart and the land around the school eroding. Students from Manzanilla/Nariva Government Primary School began the school term in the Manzanilla Community Centre instead of the newly built school.

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