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$60 million for school repairs
Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh has asked contractors to double up their shifts and finish all school repairs before the start of the new school term. He was speaking to reporters while touring 15 schools in the Victoria and St Patrick districts yesterday. Among the schools being toured were the Rousillac Hindu School which burnt down in 2003.
Gopeesingh said between $50 million and $60 million would be spent to upgrade and construct 254 primary, secondary and early childhood care (ECC) schools throughout T&T before the new term. The minister said school supervisors and principals must be willing to report to duty a week before the new term to ensure that everything was in place.
On Friday, Gopeesingh met with officials of the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL), the National Parent Teacher Association, and school supervisors to evaluate the repair programme carried out in July and August.
“We started with repairs to 173 schools, but now we have to work on 254 schools including 31 primary schools under construction, 30 ECC and eight secondary schools,” Gopeesingh said. He added that administrative and science blocks were being built in existing secondary schools, while $36,500,000 would be spent to repair 73 ECC schools. Gopeesingh said he was hoping that there would be no hiccups to mar the reopening of school.
“I am hoping that the schools will be completed. EFCL has brought out all our project engineers. They are on the field on a daily basis and if it becomes difficult, we will ask the contractors to double up on their shifts. Some have already done so and we are monitoring the works.”
Even though Gopeesingh has asked school supervisors to work during the vacation period, he has not given any assurances regarding the upgrade of salaries for school supervisors. Over the past few years, supervisors have been complaining that their salaries were way below that of a school principal.
Addressing this concern, Gopeesingh also said it was grossly unfair for school supervisors to be working for much less than their subordinates. He said he intended to speak to the permanent secretary and the CPO about the issue. He said even though supervisors were paid a special allowance, this was not sufficient.