The Saint Lucia National Youth Council (SLNYC) has expressed concern for the welfare of students at the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School (SCSS) following reports of unfavourable conditions at the school.
Eight teachers reportedly showed up at the school on Monday (the start of the second term of the 2022/2023 academic school year) after an alleged sickout, forcing the school to dismiss early. The school reportedly has a total of 50 teachers.
There has been much speculation about the situation at the school with several reports claiming that the deplorable conditions forced teachers to stay away.
According to the NYC, students were left unsupervised on Tuesday.
The organisation this week, revealed that student representatives are gravely concerned by what they described as a dejected staff and student body due to a lack of proper management and poor infrastructural conditions such as leaking roofs, lack of furniture, holes in classroom ceilings, and other hazards.
Furthermore, the NYC stated, students are in general disagreement with a proposal to discontinue the offering of CVQ-certified programmes at the school.
“As the principal non-governmental body charged with ensuring the well-being of youth in Saint Lucia, the SLNYC supports the student body at the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School in its efforts to restore normalcy at the institution,” the organisation said in a statement released Wednesday.
Further, “we believe that at all times, students must be guaranteed an educational experience of the highest standard. Therefore, the Saint Lucia National Youth Council inclusive of our Student Branch, the National Students’ Council and the wider SLNYC membership stands with staff and students at the institution in calling on the Ministry of Education to urgently address the conditions at the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School for a safe continuation to the school term.”
The SLNYC has said that it is actively monitoring the situation for the best outcome for students.
St. Lucia Teachers Union President Don Howell this week confirmed that the Union had reached out to the Ministry of Education regarding the situation.
“We have reached out to our members at the Soufriere Secondary School and we’ve also reached out to the Ministry of Education to have an urgent conversation with the teachers at the Soufriere Secondary School with the hope that whatever issues there are (at) the school will be addressed,” Howell said in an interview recently.
He also said that the Union had shared a number of concerns with the Ministry at a meeting earlier this year. According to a release from the Ministry, emphasis was placed on the general conditions of work, occupational health and safety issues, with specific focus and infrastructural matters at identified educational institutions. Of paramount importance were the concerns surrounding school discipline and school security.
“We did raise structural issues at schools with them, we pointed out a number of schools that they should attend to even before the commencement of the second term. We worked hand in hand with them in terms of identifying areas of concern. They did give us commitments to deal with some of the structural issues; some of them include health and safety matters,” Howell said.
He noted that the Union had “indicated to them that our patience on those matters were wearing thin. We also highlighted the issue of school security and requested an update as to where they were in terms of that. What we want is an urgent discussion with the stakeholders because many of the principals (and) teachers know what’s needed at the school and we need them to take some urgent action when it comes to that.”
Ministry of Education officials visited the SCSS recently, however they were unable to comment on the situation at the school. Personal Secretary in the Ministry Michelle Charles stated that “at this point we are not in a position to make a definitive statement about what’s happening at the Soufriere Comprehensive School. We are here because we understand that there are some concerns and we’re just here to listen to the teachers and to see how best we can address it.”
“We cannot make a statement as to exactly what the concerns are at this point because we just arrived and we are waiting to speak with the teachers on this,” Charles said in an interview earlier this week.