All schools, including those affected by the August 21 earthquake, will be ready to open for the new academic term on Monday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia assured yesterday.
“Over the holiday period, we had several contractors who were rectifying problems in the schools. Because of the earthquake, a number of sewer lines were dislodged and we had endless problems with the sewer system. I am advised that these problems have been fixed and all schools are in a state of readiness for reopening,” he said.
According to the minister, classes will resume at Barrackpore East and Barrackpore West Secondary, while the Curepe Anglican School was found to be unfit for occupation by the structural engineers.
“We have decanted them to other schools and we plan to retrofit the school but if retrofitting is not possible, we will have to rebuild the entire school,” he explained.
A the Toco Secondary School, an air-conditioned tent is being used to house the pupils.
“This will provide adequate accommodation for now,” Garcia said.
On another issue, the minister said he had no evidence that teachers will not be marking School-Based Assessments (SBAs) this year.
“Last year when that issue was raised by TTUTA, we had a legal opinion from the legal department which was supported by the Attorney General and an opinion from the Chief Personnel Officer who stated that the correction of SBA’s falls under the terms and conditions of service of teachers. We could only rely on the positions of experts,” he said.
He said this term is considered the preparation term before the start of the Secondary Entrance Assessment exams, Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations.
“We foresee an excellent school term and an excellent academic year,” he said.
However, president general of the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai said teachers will not be marking SBAs unless they are paid extra.
“Before teachers would have marked SBA’s initially and they did it out of goodwill. As years go by, more subjects are added to the SBA component. The SBA’s are more detailed and require more time. “SBAs were introduced now to Maths and English A. Because of the amount of work that goes with marking SBAs, the teachers cannot do this during the normal school hours because it requires a lot of personal time to mark SBAs,” he said.
Doodhai said TTUTA filed a claim last year indicating that teachers should be paid extra for marking the SBA’s but the Chief Personnel Officer said this was part of their duty. As a result, the union will be going ahead to file legal action.
The TTUTA president said he was unsure whether the Ministry of Education had completed repairs on all schools.
“We do not know what condition the schools will be in. We will know this when we go back to work,” Doodhai said.
He also appealed to parents to send their children out to school the week before and after Carnival when there is usually a poor student turnout.