WITH schools set to close their doors for the Christmas season tomorrow, Minister for Education, Dr. Robert Lewis, is urging school principals to monitor their school plants constantly to ensure that operations run smoothly.
Speaking to the media last Tuesday, Dr. Lewis said that while the Ministry of Education works in tandem with the Ministry of Infrastructure to ensure the proper upkeep of schools, “principals need to be more vigilant about the school plants they manage”.
In early October, principal of the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School (CCSS), Marva Daniel, told The VOICE that falling concrete from the school’s ceiling, “bleeding” of the concrete roof, thick mould in the Science block, termite infestation, leakages and general wear and tear had taken their toll on sections of the school.
The situation became so serious that students and teachers were forced to stay away from the premises until the Ministry of Infrastructure stepped in and conducted some rehabilitation works. These works came after students and teachers voiced their displeasure over the situation, with the teachers’ union stepping in.
At the time, Daniel said that repeated reports and requests sent in by her school seemed to have fallen on deaf ears for close to five years, resulting in her taking the issue to the media.
However, the remedial works done at the school might not have been enough to persuade the teachers and students who recommenced classes at the school on October 6. In fact, Dr. Lewis said that the Ministry was scheduled to convene a meeting last Tuesday to discuss the matter.
“Some work has been done at the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School but, of course, there’s a lot of work to be done there,” Dr. Lewis said. “This school is some 41 years old, built by the Canadian (government) at the request of Sir John (Compton).”
Dr. Lewis said that despite former Prime Minister Stephenson King and himself approaching the Canadian government for assistance with the school’s upkeep, they were told that there was no focus on infrastructure on the Canadians’ part presently. Nevertheless, Dr. Lewis, a former school teacher, believes that all schools should get the attention they deserve.
“All school plants ought to be monitored constantly by principals. There’s also the responsibility of a unit to do constant vigilance on the school plant. But the management of schools must also do that,” the education minister said.
He added: “Most of the school plant in this country is practically about 55 years old. It is time for us to do a lot of work.”
Over the years, another issue has dogged the school plant, namely the book rental programme. However, Dr. Lewis said that many students in the past failed to return the books loaned to them, sometimes selling them. That has led, he said, to government putting the programme into abeyance as it undertakes a re-engineering of the book rental system.
The new school term begins on January 4.