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Concern over school spaces for Dominica children

Published: 
Saturday, September 23, 2017

Education Minister Anthony Garcia says the logistics and other aspects of accommodating students from hurricane-ravaged Dominica will be worked out at a meeting with Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan and the Permanent Secretary. He made the comment yesterday as stakeholders raised concern about the ability of the nation’s schools to accommodate more students.

Garcia, a former educator, recalled that in 2004 when he was principal at Fatima College, he allowed students from Grenada to attend school there “and it went well.” If there are challenges this time around “we will overcome them,” he said, because the objective is to ensure the students “get an uninterrupted education.”

But T&T Unified Teachers’ Association president Lyndsay Doodhai said the first hurdle for Garcia is space, noting parents have had difficulty getting their children into schools. He said on the East West Corridor some classrooms have 35-40 children.

Doodhai said TTUTA is not sure how many schools would be able to open their doors to those affected by Hurricane Maria because “many schools are filled to capacity and have no spaces.”

However, he said, if places are found, “teachers will be ready and willing to teach them without fear or favour.”

Chairman of the Presbyterian Secondary School board Christian Dookhoo said the problem of space was discussed earlier this week at a meeting with principals under the board’s purview. He said the Government initiative will have to be further discussed.

Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Sat Maharaj said he does not know where Garcia will find school places, noting many schools are “falling down and falling apart.” He was also not in favour of “blanket approval without involving the United Nations, which has a refugee programme.”

“How could you bring refugees when all of us are refugees in our own homes?” Maharaj asked.

National Parent Teacher Association president Zena Ramathali said she “preferred to reserve comment at this stage.”