Here we go…. again
In announcing that work had been completed on just 37 per cent of the schools scheduled for repairs over the August vacation, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh stopped far short of what is required for reassuring students, parents, teachers and the general public.
The Minister needs to give the status of the remaining 63 per cent of the 210 schools and, as a first priority, elaborate on the arrangements being made to ensure that all students start the new school year in a position to continue their work safely and in reasonable comfort.
Instead, as it stands, indications are that the 2012-13 school year will not escape the usual traumatic opening with which we have become so accustomed.
TTUTA has already advised teachers that they are free to take whatever decisions they deem necessary if they find their working environment to be unsafe.
Mindful of the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA), and TTUTA's own responsibility to its members, this position cannot be argued with. But we urge the union to consider our children in deciding its next course of action in pushing the Ministry to get cracking on making our schools safe and conducive to study on a timely basis.
We also urge the parties to avoid the usual confrontational response which, from year to year without fail, mars the beginning of each new school year. All of us, but especially our children, are ill-served by the dislocation and disruption that result from protest and argument between TTUTA and the Ministry of Education.
Even at this eleventh hour, it is incumbent upon the Ministry to take the lead in dealing with this issue before the start of the term.
With 133 of the 210 schools still to be repaired, the Ministry needs to identify exactly which of these do not pose a risk, and in the case of those that do, what exactly are the arrangements in place for ensuring a smooth start to the term.
In the circumstances, the most critical issue is that of communication. We hope the Ministry of Education understands the importance of communicating with all the affected stakeholders in this matter: TTUTA, the administration of the various schools involved, students and parents.
Once the immediate challenge of starting the new term with minimal dislocation is sorted out, Minister Gopeesingh must provide the public with a comprehensive statement on the school repair programme and an explanation why the schools earmarked for repairs were not ready in time.
After that, the public would expect to see some accountability in this matter.
The President of the Republic has raised an alarm about us "nurturing a generation of children who are allowed not to take responsibility for their actions". In an environment of enveloping non-accountability at the highest levels of the land, is it reasonable to expect our children to do otherwise?