Physical conditions in schools, producing ever more headline-making protests and teaching stoppages, clearly suggest that arrangements for maintenance and repair are in need of major overhaul. While almost every school term is marred by the failure to have all schools ready in time for reopening, the current situation in which some schools remain closed halfway into the term takes us to a new low.
The Education Facilities Co Ltd which was touted as the solution to the physical development and maintenance of our schools, is clearly not delivering as intended. The reasons behind its current level of deep dysfunction should be explored with urgency. There are questions about the contract-award process that need to be investigated with a view to determining whether this is a factor in the disruptions plaguing our schools.
For a country that can afford free education all the way to tertiary level and which has the means to put a laptop in the schoolbag of every Form One pupil, it is mind-boggling that such problems should endure from year to year.
In a South-East Port of Spain hot spot, where the impact can be expected to be profoundly troubling, stop-and-start repair work has produced endless schooling disruptions.
While the authorities continue to fall down on the job of getting schools ready for classes, it is anybody’s guess how these disruptions are affecting the lives and future of our children. It is hard enough getting some children to focus on their classwork, and tough enough keeping some in school, to have the problem now compounded with uncertainty and panic over falling behind in class.
Not for the first time, the situation is pointing to the need for a complete review of the arrangements in place for delivering an effective school operation. It is quite possible that the current disruptions are symptomatic of our age-old problem of responsibility without authority and vice-versa where those who have the job to do, don’t have the power to ensure it gets done, while those with the power can afford to be delinquent without consequences.
Whatever the source of the problem, it is time for a solution that gets to the heart of the problem.
While the frustration and anger of all parties involved is understandable, it will not solve the problem or ease the hearts of our troubled children. They need from us the assurance that their education will not be compromised by the failure of adults to do their job in looking after school properties.
Instead of bullying school administrators and taking issue with worried and anxious parents, the Ministry of Education needs to get its act together and start communicating with the country in a manner that is less defensive. The time has come for a full and comprehensive statement that identifies the source of the problem and lays out the solution with clear timelines.
This is a problem for the Government to fix and it should get on with doing so.