Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West Jack Warner called on Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh on Friday night to give an account on issues affecting schools nationwide.
When Warner rose to contribute to the debate on The Finance Bill, 2014, in the Parliament at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, he said he had expected Gopeesingh, who spoke just before he did, to address the issues affecting schools, instead of talking about the misdeeds of the People’s National Movement.
“Mr Speaker, I heard Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) complaining about security in schools. There is a rumour outside there that the minister is trying to dismantle the MTS to give small security contracts to small security firms of friends and family,” Warner said, and then offered Gopeesingh the opportunity to respond.
Gopeesingh said what the ministry was doing was a rationalisation of security services.
“We have now 176 health, safety and security officers placed in the schools. So each one of the Government secondary schools have in addition to the security officers at least two additional officers that costs us $20,000 a month for the two health and safety officers. But the security officers—one alone costs $30,000 a month. So when a school has six security officers that costs the State $.1 million for security system for one school.
“Therefore we are trying to rationalise that because we have to spend about $250 million annually for security systems in schools. We give the assurance that no school will be without the security systems that they require,” Gopeesingh said.
Warner, who raised several other issues related to the nation’s schools, said: “I have checked again and again, and I don’t know of any minister of education under whom more schools have been closed than under you. If I am wrong, I stand to be corrected. Tell the people what they want to know. When a person’s child is at home for one week, two weeks, three weeks, and can’t go to school—whether is in St Augustine, Williamsville or Princes Town—they want to know why.
“For a sewer, a toilet—in this day and age—they want to know why. For electricity—they want to know why,” Warner said.
He said he thought Gopeesingh would have said something about schools which have remained closed for weeks.
He asked about the Longdenville Presbyterian School, the Paramin RC School and the school that was supposed to be built at Cashew Gardens.
Responding almost immediately, Gopeesingh said: “The Charlieville Presbyterian School, the debris has been removed, designs have been done for that block and it will start probably within about two weeks. The contract has been tendered.
“The Longdenville Primary School, we are awaiting the Presbyterian board to give us an alternate site to build; and the Paramin school is about 60 per cent constructed at the moment.”