Sunday 26 May, 2019

BUT Head: Repair schools early and finish 2 weeks before the term

FILE - Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) President Pedro Shepherd

FILE - Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) President Pedro Shepherd

The Ministry of Education is coming under fire as schools once again are not all ready for the start of the academic year.

President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd said that they laud the ministry for doing the repairs, but they believe that focus needs to be placed on early repair work and maintenance.

Speaking to Loop News today after it was revealed yesterday that five schools including one secondary school and two nurseries will not be opening on September 11, 201,7 along with the rest of government educational institutions, Shepherd said:

“The BUT was aware of the summer programme…  Apparently there were 18 schools on the summer programme but of course there were other schools not on the list that needed repairs done, smaller repairs, doors and such, but I guess the summer programme was for more extensive projects.

“But our concern really is not the work; our concern is the start time of the work.”

Shepherd lamented that in terms of the summer repair programme the work needs to commence early in the school break especially when the disrepair is major, because delays will occur naturally with the hurricane season unfolding.

He said:

“What we are finding is over the last few years, you have schools that are in serious disrepair. The work is obviously going to take some time, two months, maybe into three months, the longest lasting vacation is the summer vacation, which is nine weeks. If the work is perceived to finish in eight weeks, then you have to use the entire summer to work on the school because you’re into the rainy season and so on, so you have to give time for bad weather and so on. But what we are noticing is that the Ministry starts these schools late.”

Giving context, he said that some repair work commenced in weeks four and five, sometimes even further down after camps were held at schools.

In the case of Bay Primary, he admitted that that school may have started early, but the work was extensive as a section of the roof had to be removed, and then Tropical Storm Harvey passed. He said so Harvey’s impact compounded the issues destroying “a significant portion of the ceiling and floors, so then you to add that to what was originally planned for Bay Primary.”

Speaking to St. John Primary, he said that “very old plant” is in dire need of upgrading, and in passing, he noticed plywood sheets nailed up at the windows for three weeks. He deemed the situation unacceptable, saying, “I do not know if the windows are on order or what, but again, if you know that you have to change windows, you have an estimation of the size windows you want, so you know that it takes time to make windows to specifications and so on, so you order these things.

“So you now have a situation where some schools, five or so schools cannot open. Wesley Hall Infants, same problem, extensive work.”

Shepherd was glad that the ministry broke their usual trend and indicated that they are going to delay the opening of the schools with an announcement “quite early. Previously you would go into some schools and hear about the delay.”

In terms of solutions, the BUT Head urged that the Ministry go back to the drawing board as it relates to the summer repair programme.

He urged, “I think the Ministry has to look at the summer programme and the extent of the summer programme and start work on the summer programme early, because it is going to affect teaching and learning. You are missing a week or in some cases you may even have to miss a second week. The ones that are finished or you assume are finished, then you are going to have issues with students and teachers going in and industrial cleaning wasn't done, or you have scents from paint, all these kind of things. So I’m saying that the summer programme has to be completed two weeks ahead of school. That has to be the protocol and plan.”

School Maintenance Work

Moreover, the Union President used the occasion to make an appeal for an emphasis to placed on the maintenance of the school plants as well.

He chastised the Ministry for waiting too late, and insisted:

“The Ministry needs a maintenance programme. I think that is the major problem with the ministry and schools. If you maintain the schools during the school year then you would not be having the issues that they are having during the summer. Small things if you don’t tackle them then they end up becoming big things. Leaking taps, small termite infestation, you don’t treat it so it spreads throughout the school etcetera.

“So I think the Ministry has to look at the Project Implementation Unit and probably restructure, reorganize that so that they do not find themselves spending money or large sums of money in areas where they could have stemmed the problem from early and spent a lot less.”

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