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New school term starts today
More 200,000 students will return to school today after the three-week Christmas vacation. Around 750 Early Childhood Care and Education Centres, as well as primary and secondary schools, will resume classes today for the new school term. A press release from the Ministry of Communications yesterday said during the Christmas vacation, repairs were carried out on several schools throughout the country.
During the August 2012 holidays, the Ministry of Education, through the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL), repaired 150 schools across the country. Despite these repairs, in late 2012 there was a considerable number of protests and complaints made by parents, students and teachers across the country in relation to health and safety issues at schools.
In September of last year, parents of students attending the Woodbrook Presbyterian Primary School, staged an early-morning protest outside the school compound on Tragarete Road, Port-of-Spain, demanding that authorities relocate students and structural issues at the 100-year-old school. The school’s Parent/Teacher Association (PTA) complained that parts of the building were termite-ridden and bathroom facilities were also in need of repairs.
In October 2012, parents and students of Malick Secondary School at Coconut Drive, Morvant, complained that students were unable to attend school a month into the new school term because of pending repairs after a fire at the school in August.
The Palo Seco Secondary School was also closed during the school term after a mysterious fungus was discovered. Students and teachers at the Arima Central Secondary School protested in October after a month of shortened classes because of a faulty air-conditioning system.
There were also complaints from the Diego Martin North Secondary School on St Lucien Road that classes had to be shortened because of overcrowding.
A shift system was implemented at the school as the building was unable to accommodate all students. In November 2012, parents of students at the La Horquetta South Government Primary School protested outside the Education Ministry in St Clair complaining that the school had remained closed for two months because of a pigeon infestation that was negatively affecting the health of students.
In the press release from the Ministry of Communications sent yesterday, Minister of Communications Jamal S. Mohammed said any school repairs that were not completed over the Christmas vacation would be continued but only on weekends. He said, to date, works have been completed on more than 350 primary and secondary schools throughout the country.
The press release said this year, some 15 new primary schools will be constructed, adding to the 13 new schools which were built over the past two years. “This is part of the Government’s plans to also build some 42 replacement primary schools over a two-year period,” said Mohammed. He said eight new secondary schools will also be constructed.
“Pre-schoolers have also enjoyed the benefits of spanking new schools as some 13 fully-functional, state-of-the-art Early Childhood Care and Education Centres have been built in communities around the country.” Mohammed said this is in keeping with the Government’s mission to have at least 97 per cent of children between the ages of three and five in nursery school by 2015.
Teacher absenteeism was also a major issue last year with teachers protesting the slow pace of salary negotiations for the period October 2008 to September 2011. Teachers protested by staying away from schools in protest and taking time to “rest and reflect” while many of the nation’s school’s remained closed.
In December 2012, after two years of negotiations, the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) and the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) came to a salary agreement with an increase of between eight and ten per cent for teachers. Teachers are also set to receive an increase to their cost of living allowance, as well as a revised travel allowance of $600 for principals, vice-principals and senior teachers.
President of the National Parent/Teacher Association (NPTA), Zena Ramatali said she presumes that there would be “a smooth reopening” of schools today. In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Ramatali said she hoped that schools such as La Horquetta South Government Primary School and Diego Martin North Secondary schools would have received the necessary repairs to allow classes to resume today.
“I trust that something would have been done by the Ministry of Education so that these students can return to school where they would be supervised and receiving their education,” she said. Yesterday, calls were made to Minister of Education Tim Gopeesingh and to TUTTA president Roustan Job but neither answered.
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