PATIENCE Combined was one of the schools affected by reopening delays this year, as predicted by the island’s Ministry of Education last week. When parents arrived to the school this week to drop students off they found an institution so inadequately prepared that some took a decision to have their children boycott classes until the situation improves.
But as the irate parents were about to leave the school’s compound with their children, a visibly surprised Gale Rigobert, Minister of Education in Saint Lucia, arrived at the school, where she later attempted to address their concerns on the vexing issue.
However, later during the day, the parents were informed that the school would remain closed until Monday.
Due to the sharp reduction of students at the Mon Repos Combined School, the government had taken a decision to merge it with the Patience Combined School.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Education last week, the Patience Combined School was scheduled to re-open on Monday.
In an interview with this reporter, President of the Parent/ Teachers Association of the Patience Combined School, Damian Jn. Baptiste said that the school is riddled with a multitude of problems which render it unfit to re-open on time for this academic year.
He identified some of those problems as ongoing construction work on the school which creates health and safety concerns, a lack of furniture at the school, insufficient uniforms for students and inadequate teaching materials for teachers.
“The situation at the school is very disturbing. Teachers and parents are displeased with what has happened. They are upset about the school’s unpreparedness for its re-opening,” Jn. Baptiste said, describing the situation as distasteful.
He said that the school is in such a terrible state that the parents were the ones who had to clean it in a bid to have it better prepared for its re-opening.
In an interview with disgruntled parents, who did not mince words in venting their concerns, some questioned whether the Mon Repos Combined School should have been closed before suitable arrangements were made at the Patience Combined School to accommodate students.
In addressing the parents, Dr. Gigobert, who is also the Parliamentary Representative of Micoud South said on Saturday night she was at the school communicating with stakeholders to ensure that the school was in good condition for its re-opening on Monday.
On the issue of inadequate uniforms for the students, she said she was surprised that they were not available as yet because she was given the assurance by the person contracted to supply them that they would be ready in time for the re-opening of school.
“Someone has dropped the ball…” Dr.Rigobert lamented.
As it relates to the shortage of furniture at the school, she said they had expected to obtain additional furniture from the Mon Repos Combined School, but recently realized that the condition of the furniture there was even worse than that of the Patience Combined School.
Present at the meeting was also the District Education Officer (DEO) for District 5, Gabriella St Paul.