(SNO) — Education Minister Dr. Gale Rigobert has disclosed that some principals submitted reports of infrastructural defects for their schools as late as the same day school re-opened.
Some principals submitted reports a week before the new school year started.
The minister, who did not identify the school principals responsible for the late maintenance reports, said these late submissions have caused the delays in refurbishment of schools across the island.
Work on some schools were undertaken the night before the school new term opened, or the same morning.
One school in particular, the Micoud Primary School, encountered some issues with lingering paint fumes in a few classrooms and caused some parent to express their concern and even pulled their children out of the school, according to a press release from the education ministry.
The school’s principal Fern Dornelly said remedial arrangements have been sought to house affected students, the release added.
Dr. Rigobert told reporters that, “We sent out a circular, as we call it in the public service, to advise and invite principals to report infrastructural defects in their respective schools. We extended the deadline, then I came to this very room and spoke to you these very same personalities, and spoke to the principals through your media, encouraging them to report their defects as well. Would you believe that last week we were receiving information regarding infrastructural challenges at schools? Last week! That’s the week before school reopens!”
She added: “Would you believe further that yesterday (Monday, Sept. 3), yesterday, we got reports of infrastructural defects. And you know one of my team members asked the question: ‘did this happen over the weekend?’ Now, we know that even those principals who submitted holistic reports about infrastructural defects in their schools, we could only undertake so much, but to have new reports emerging at this hour, at the 12th hour, and that is precisely what we were trying to preempt.”
According to reports, just under $3 million was allocated in the 2017/208 budget for school plant and equipment maintenance. This year, $10 million has been pumped into the education ministry to undertake repairs.
In a press release, the education ministry said the annual allocation of just over $1 million for school repairs across the island, for years, has proven “insufficient to alleviate the infrastructural issues” of the large number of schools which require repair.
As such, this year, the ministry said government invested “10 times the usual amount” to ensure the comfort of student and teachers alike ahead of the reopening of school.
Dr. Rigobert said while there is still work to be done, the $10 million budgeted has been “stretched well” in improving “80 percent” of structural issues in schools.
“So yes we’ve had a massive injection of resources but that represents only a quarter of what it would take to bring every school to an acceptable level. So that does not mean that after this $10 million undertaking that we will have not other problems or there won’t be remaining or existing problems, but that we will continue to address the more important ones, and overtime, hopefully we can embrace a culture of preventative maintenance. By that I mean that we take care of our schools overtime and not wait for them to be so significantly deteriorated before we undertake a rehabilitation project,” she said.
Below are audio and video from Micoud Primary School Fern Dornelly and Minister of Education, Innovation, Gender Relation and Sustainable Development, Dr. Gale Rigobert on the issue at Micoud Primary and overall works done on schools for the new academic year.