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Hundreds unable to go to school

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

Hundreds of children were unable to attend classes on the first day of the new school term because of incomplete repairs at several schools across the country.

This was stated yesterday by president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Devanand Sinanan.

 Sinanan told the Express that a range of problems including sewers, bat and pigeon droppings and structural issues made it impossible for classes to resume, although Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh had given instructions that all schools be reopened regardless of the issues.

“It is 650-plus schools (nationwide) and we have a small handful that were unable to be reopened. We are happy of course that the majority of schools were able to have a smooth opening but anytime a school can’t open on time it is one too many. 

“We are very concerned about the fact, from the looks of it, that several hundred children in schools throughout the country would not have been able to return to school today, normally. 

“We also understand that the Minister would have met with supervisors and issued strict instructions that all schools are to be opened no matter what. Of course we are finding out that while some of them may have reopened, they may not be able to stay open because the problems have not been alleviated,” he said.

Sinanan said TTUTA has been attempting to meet with Gopeesingh for more than ten months but so far it has not had an audience with him despite repeated verbal and written requests—one of which he made when he first took office in November.

“I met the minister at a cocktail reception leading up to Christmas and I reminded him of that request and he gave the assurance ‘yes, we will meet early in the new term’. I am still waiting and I am hoping the minister will contact TTUTA soon to indicate he is willing and prepared to meet with us to find a common solution to these problems that are affecting hundreds of children,” he said.

In an interview on i95 fm yesterday, Sinanan said Malick Secondary was yet to be opened as well as the Cumuto Government School which had not been handed over by the contractor. 

The Elswick Presbyterian, Tunapuna Government Primary, Princes Town Presbyterian Number 1, Santa Rita RC, St Mary’s Government and Fifth Company AC remained closed because of sewer problems, he said.

The Princes Town East Secondary School did not reopen because repair works being undertaken have blocked the entrance to the school, while the Jordan Hill Presbyterian School still has a bat and pigeon droppings problem. 

The Matelot Community College which never opened last term because of the caved-in road to the school remained closed as well, he said. 

“We understand that Manzanilla Government is still operating out of the community centre and they have no word as yet in terms of when they will be able to move into the school building. We understand Barataria Boys and St Dominic’s (Savio) RC, they are also closed. North Manzanilla Government—that is a new one that came to our attention today—apparently there are serious problems with the structural integrity of that building. 

“So it is one that we are investigating and we are monitoring closely...we are not too sure what’s taking place there,” he added. 

Sinanan said it contacted the two schools in La Brea—Brighton AC and La Brea RC—where the community was affected by the oil spill, and they had regular classes.

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