Protests by a group of upset parents at the Milton Lynch Primary School over poor environmental conditions yesterday, appeared to have prompted Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw to visit the school today for a first hand look.
And what the minister saw prompted her to action, while acknowledging that the conditions are common across several public schools.
But she is promising that the issue at Milton Lynch are to be fixed over a matter of weeks – starting tomorrow.
After observing the state of the school, including cow-itch on the playing field, Bradshaw accompanied by Chief Education Officer Karen Best and fellow officers, assured students and teachers that they would not have to deal with these poor and unsanitary conditions much longer.
She promised that when school reopens on April 15 after the Easter break, the major issues should no longer be a bother.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY following a tour of the Christ Church boys’ school this morning, Bradshaw revealed that two weeks before to the upcoming Easter vacation, the school will be closed for extensive repairs and sanitary works.
During that time, Bradshaw said Class 4 students who are preparing for the Common Entrance Examination in May, are to be accommodated at The Christ Church Foundation School and a nearby church.
Students from Infants to Class three are to remain at home for that period.
The minister told Barbados TODAY: “Lighting fixtures . . . have to be replaced because some of the classroom lighting is very poor. The area in the Infants’ bathroom, we are going to try to not cause too much disruption, but will start to replace those as well on the weekend, as well.
“But the major works, in terms of dealing with the urinals and stuff like that would take place during the four-week break. Also, as it relates to the termite treatment, it was felt that that cannot be done while the students are there.
“There are also some wells where there is odour emanating so we are having someone coming to address that soon. There were concerns about the fencing, and that there were dogs coming in, so we have contacted somebody to deal with that as well. But right now we are starting any remedial work that can be done.”
A team from the Ministry of Environment is to visit the school to assess the area for removing the cow itch by weekend, she said.
“Fortunately it is not as big an issue as the one at Blackman and Gollop, and I don’t anticipate there should be that much disruption coming back to school on Monday,” Bradshaw said.
“But Minister Trevor Prescod spoke to me this evening and indicated that he was going to send out a team in the morning to look at it.”
On Tuesday, a group of frustrated parents took to the sidewalk outside the Water Street school to protest a raft of problems plaguing the school, including rodent and termite infestation and the unsanitary bathrooms.
Today, members of the Parent and Teacher Association (PTA) were also present for the ministerial tour.
Bradshaw said she was pleased that the parents were in agreement with the plans the ministry had put forward to address their concerns, adding that she was impressed that they were willing and ready to assist with the work.
“What I got from them is that they wanted to be a part of the transformation of the school plant,” said Bradshaw. “And as parents, they obviously really wanted to be involved in the life of their children. They have also offered to assist the school in painting, in doing the repairs, in moving any furniture out.
“Those are the kind of things that I have been encouraging students to do and certainly teachers. This PTA for me has really stepped up today to say if we do x you can do y. I feel comfortable that if we get this right, we can replicate this across the other schools.”
During the Estimates Debate on Tuesday, Christ Church East MP Wilfred Abrahams raised concerns about toilet conditions at St Bartholomew’s Primary. Education Minister Bradshaw and her team also took the opportunity to tour school where she observed that the urinals in the male toilet were in dire need of changing, a problem, which she said, was affecting a number of other campuses.
Bradshaw told Barbados TODAY: “This is a problem across a number of the schools. The urinals are actually outdated and they need to be upgraded. And the female bathroom as well needs some of the partitions replacing, as well as some of the actual toilets.
“I have to say that these are all problems that exist across the system and I think are a reflection of a lack of maintenance over the course of the last few years.”
President of the Milton Lynch PTA, Tara Thomas, told Barbados TODAY she appreciated that not only did the minister visit the school for a “detailed walk through”, but also put forward a plan of action and gave deadlines on the spot for the work to be completed.
Thomas said: “I think it is a case of awareness. The issues could have been addressed sooner. But from what I discovered this morning, the ministry was not aware of how severe the problems were at the Milton Lynch Primary School.
“So coming here on the compound and actually getting a hands-on experience and seeing what we were describing, has played a pivotal role.”
The principal of Milton Lynch, Andrew Haynes, said he was happy that the Minister made it her business to see first-hand what was taking place.