After six weeks of not knowing if their children will have classes, parents of students at Barataria North Secondary protested outside the school yesterday. The school has not officially been closed but teachers have not held classes due to concerns about insect and rodent infestations.
“We are here because we cannot get clarity. We not getting clarity from the school, we not getting clarity from the minister, we not getting clarity from the district office for this area as to why and when we will have school,” said Jackie Joseph, the parent of a Form One student.
“We have children who are going to do NESC just now. We have children who going to the May/June CXC exams who have SBAs that they have to submit. And they not able to do any of those things. Because of the myriad of problems that we have at this school.”
Ministry officials said they sent personnel from the Insect Vector Unit to the school and collaborated with the San Juan Laventille Regional Corporation to fumigate the building. However even before this action was taken, the building had not been officially deemed a health risk under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Because of this, the school was not closed.
Despite the fumigation, complaints from staff and students have persisted.
“My son came home with flea bites on his skin, I had to get medication for him. We stand up outside the school now looking for answers from the principal, from the minister,” said Debbie Harewood, another Form One parent.
“This is unfair to us. Six weeks our children are home without school. My son frustrated, all my son doing is sleeping, he sleeping!”
TTUTA president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas confirmed that the ministry sent teams to spray the school but there continued to be complaints.
“This has been going on for a couple of weeks. The thing is the Ministry would have made repeated attempts to have the place sanitised and so forth over the last few weeks. The fact of the matter is when both the students and teachers occupy the compound all parties are bitten from time to time,” she said.
De Freitas said she is awaiting information from her staff representative about the issue at the school. She said the union made a suggestion to the ministry earlier this week.
“I am not sure whether the protest is directed properly. The ministry has to take action to deal with the matter. When we met the Permanent Secretary on Ash Wednesday, we suggested to him that there are structures on the compound that could be perhaps could be sanitised as well to remove whatever could be there. It’s up to the ministry to look into it and treat it accordingly,” she said.
During yesterday’s protest, police officers came to speak to parents as they had not officially applied for permission to protest, angering the parents further.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia said his ministry sought help from the Ministry of Health to help identify the source of the problem.
“They can’t seem to determine the origin of the fleas because the place has been sanitised, sprayed and so on,” he said.
Garcia said they are now looking into whether the problem originated outside the school.