Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said yesterday there should be a smooth start to the new school term and all 243 primary and secondary schools and 73 Early Childhood Education Centres are expected to be reopened today.
But Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Devanand Sinanan has said about 14 schools might not reopen today. Sinanan also said principals should put the safety of their teachers and pupils first.
Via a telephone interview yesterday, Gopeesingh said: “I have just checked with Education Facilities Co Ltd (EFCL) and the CEO (Harrilal Seecharan). I have been advised all schools should be reopened today.”
Gopeesingh added: “ I am advised schools will reopen today following the successful completion of repair and maintenance projects for 243 primary and secondary schools and 73 early childhood education centres over the July/August period. All schools were opened at the close of the last academic year. I have been advised work is continuing today.”
He also gave a breakdown of the work which was undertaken during the vacation period. He said: “We have seven new primary schools that have completed construction. Some of the children will be going into the new schools in the next two weeks. We will be occupying four of the new schools and the other three new schools will be opened within the next two weeks. We have about 15 newly constructed Early Childhood Centres. Then we have completed 243 repair and maintenance projects in primary and secondary schools. We have completed major repairs on 73 early childhood education centres.”
A release from the Ministry of Education (MoE) also supported Gopeesingh’s response that successful repair works had been undertaken.
It said: “The MoE wishes to advise that over the July/August Vacation Repair Programme, the MoE in conjunction with the EFCL undertook repairs and maintenance projects in 243 primary and secondary schools and 73 early childhood care and education (ECCE) centres. The Vacation Repair Programme has been successfully completed so all schools, in which these repairs were undertaken, were ready to reopen for the new academic year.”
Asked to comment on Sinanan’s claims, Gopeesingh said: “ I heard the TTTUA statements. Unfortunately Sinanan seems to be unaware continuous maintenance projects have been ongoing. We have done over 4500 repair and maintenance projects over the last four years. Daily, we are faced with situations where we have to do emergency repairs and maintenance projects at about five or six schools.”
Asked what advice he would impart to the children, Gopeesingh said: “They are entering the new phase of their education career. As (United States civil rights leader) Martin Luther King said: ‘The journey of 1,000 miles begins with the smallest step’. We are providing universal primary and secondary education free. We hope they would rise up to the challenge of a first world education system where, hopefully, they would become future leaders of the world.”
He added: “They must inculcate in themselves the values, morals and ethics which go hand in hand with academic achievements. Of course, we want to encourage all students to participate in sporting activities.”
Vacation Repair Programme
An update from the Ministry of Education via a release said: “In particular, during the last four weeks EFCL, MoE and representatives of TTUTA enaged in close monitoring and project management of the Vacation Repair Programme.
Also, over the past week, the MoE’s Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan met with all school supervisors who had been liaising closely with school principals to ensure the satisfactory completion of repair works.”
It added: “Minor works like repairs to fences and perimeter walls are ongoing but will not affect the reopening. Additionally URP and CEPEP personnel have been mobilised through the various ministries, to assist in the cleaning and sanitisation of school compounds.”
The release also said the MoE wishes to sincerly thank all contractors, their workers and other personnel working throughout these eight weeks for their dedicated efforts and long man-hours to faciliate the smooth reopening of school.