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Union: Teachers right to abandon unsafe schools
As teachers at the Basse Terre RC School, Moruga, refused to work in inadequate conditions yesterday, their union urged them to exercise self-preservation and the safety of students in their care. The T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) first vice-president Lynsley Doodhai reminded principals that under the Education Act they were responsible for the teachers and students under their care.
He cautioned that if they disregarded that and allowed their charges to operate in buildings that were not fit for occupation, then they could be charged with negligence. Doodhai’s statements came as he denounced what he saw as attempts of intimidation by the Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh against its supervisors and principals to have all schools remain open in the face of infrastructural problems.
Doodhai said TTUTA had information that the minister had called supervisors and principals to meetings twice during the Christmas holidays and had given them a mandate. “We understand he intimated to them that if any school failed to open, they will be held personally responsible. That is why many schools opened and closed after just a half-an-hour to an hour on Monday,” he added.
Doodhai said for a long time promises made by the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) to conduct repair work at the Moruga school had been broken. He said the frustrated school’s PTA raised over $2,000 for repairs but that was not enough. He reminded principals of their responsibility and told them to do all in their power to ensure their personal health and safety and that of their teachers and students.
Ministry: We held talks
The ministry’s media relations co-ordinator, Yolanda Morales-Carvalho, defended the minister, saying whenever schools have problems, whatever decision was taken, was done after consultation with stakeholders. She said the early dismissals on Monday at North Manzanilla and Lower Cumuto Government were the result of heavy rain over the weekend.
At Lower Cumuto, she said, the downpour inundated the sewer system at the old school building, making it unfit for use. She said the new building would be ready within the next month and in the interim classes would be held in the old building while sewer-system work was being undertaken. She said rain also wreaked havoc at the North Manzanilla school, causing some hiccups with a leaking roof but could not say when that issue would be resolved.
Morales-Carvalho also said the EFCL, which was doing repair work on behalf of the ministry, also visited the Elswick Presbyterian School yesterday to have the sewer system pumped out. But, she said, there appeared to be some other problems at that school and another meeting was scheduled for today with representatives of the ministry, EFCL, the PTA and the principal to ascertain exactly what needed to be done.
She said Basse Terre RC School, Moruga, remained open but had no information that teachers were refusing to work because of infrastructural problems.