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PM blanks protesting students
Plagued by a rat infestation, primary school students travelled several miles from Erin to Penal on Tuesday to see Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and plead with her to fix a rat infestation and other problems at their school. But the more than two dozen students of the Erin Presbyterian Primary School were left to protest in the blazing midday sun, outside the Penal Community Centre, where the PM launched the first ICT centre.
“Urgent, Pied Piper needed at Erin Pres,” read one of the placards held aloft by a student. President of the Parent Teachers Association Joy Ramsaroop said they were hoping to meet with the Prime Minister to highlight problems which had kept the school closed for five weeks but were barred by the PM’s security and the police.
Persad-Bissessar, who was told of the protest, remained in the ICT centre, where she had lunch with Science and Technology Minister Dr Rupert Griffith, Community Development Minister Winston Peters and Minister in the Ministry Works and Infrastructure Minister Stacy Roopnarine. Fed up of waiting for her, the group of protesters left.
Carl Solano, who has three children at the school, said the Prime Minister attended the Erin Presbyterian school as a child and they were hoping she would be sympathetic to their cause and at least speak with them. Ramsaroop explained that they came to the centre on learning of Persad-Bissessar’s visit to get her to address the problems after they had exhausted all other avenues, including the Ministry of Education and the Presbyterian School Board.
She said since the beginning of the current school term, the 200-plus students have not had a full day of school because of a rat infestation, a contaminated water tank and a leaking cesspit. She said SEA students have assessments today and tomorrow but no alternative arrangements have been made to accommodate them.
“The school has had a rat infestation for the past five weeks. The Siparia Regional Corporation and the Ministry of Health, did what they could have done but the school is still infested. They explained that the rat infestation is not only within the school compound, it is coming from the environment as well.” Celia Balgobin said the rats were destroying all her grandchildren’s books.
“When they reach in school is mess all over the place. Then the water tanks remain open and crapauds go into the tanks. There is also a cesspit which is leaking. “They can’t go to school, when they go they sending them back home,” she added. Ramsaroop said parents helped to sanitise the school but when they went back on Monday a huge rat jumped out of one of the teachers’ cupboards and classes were dismissed, as teachers refused to work in that environment.