In their glee: Pupils of Mucurapo Girls’ RC School, Western Main Road, St James, enjoy their lunch break yesterday on the first day of the school term. See Page 5. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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Tim: Repairing 328 schools ‘historic’

...as eight schools close early due to health, safety concerns

By Michelle Loubon

At the start of the new school term yesterday, eight schools, including Tranquillity Government Primary, St Theresa’s Girls’ RC, Arima Hindu, Cumuto Presbyterian, Morvant/Laventille and Couva West Secondary, had problems ranging from rat and cockroach droppings, termite-ridden roofs and a collapsed perimeter wall.

This led to those schools being dismissed early, and at Arima Hin­du, teachers left based on provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) Act.
Education Minister Dr Tim Go­peesingh said he would address the individual issues affecting the eight schools. 
He also said the schools’ repair programme, which was under­taken for 328 schools in an eight-week period, was “historic”.
Gopeesingh said the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Asso­ciation (TTUTA) and National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) were invited to come on board with regard to the repair programme, but they became “adversarial”.
In a telephone interview yester­day, Gopeesingh said: “TTUTA and NPTA were invited early on in our repair programme to indicate what schools needed repairing. We asked them to come on board with us. 
“They should have been part of the programme, but for one reason or the other, they turned around and became adversarial. They should have been supporters of the programme. It was a phenomenal achieve­ment. 
“The only school that remained closed was St Theresa’s (due to a a sew­er problem). I have to thank all the contractors and schools’ supervisors and over 125 contractors who worked on the programmes, and the Education Facilities Co Ltd (EFCL).
“That criticism from TTUTA pre­sident (Devanand Sinanan) about all the schools not undergoing repairs is unfair as the EFCL has delivered on its mandate. All the schools have completed their repair programme,” the minister added. 
Gopeesingh also urged pupils continued success in the education process. He said the State would continue to provide an equitable education to create world leaders. 
“The students are fortunate. The taxpayers are paying for their education. We continue to provide high-quality education so no child must be left behind.” 

‘Repairs brought to our attention will be dealt with’

Education Minister Tim Gopeesingh’s update on schools that failed to reopen yesterday: 

Tranquillity Government Primary 
Gopeesingh said: “It was not brought to our attention previously. Now we will deal with it.”

St Theresa’s Girls RC 
“One school that remained closed because of a sewer problem. That is the only result of non-repair. It will be opened by Thursday.” 

Arima Hindu
 “It was not on the list to be repaired. We have to construct a new school and the Maha Sabha Board is trying to procure the land to construct a new school for the board. I understand teachers walked off the job. We will try to see where else we can accommodate them. We will work with the Maha Saba board for alternative accommodation.” 

Cumuto Presbyterian
“Not aware of it but it will be dealt with. I heard they had bat droppings.” 
 
Morvant/Laventille Secondary
 “The 25-metre perimeter wall that collapsed should not keep the school closed. Work will be comple­tedly shortly. The principal was told about it already. The Chief Education Officer (Harrilal Seecharan) spoke to her and he indicated the wall could be constructed.” 

Couva West Secondary
“That is what (poor air-condi­tion­ing system) we inherited from the PNM. It is causing some concerns—Aranjuez Secondary, Marabella Sec­ondary and Couva West Secon­dary. A forensic investigation is being undertaken on the type of air-conditioning. It is proving to be a nightmare for us. We have spoken to the contractor on the issue and he can get the 
air-conditioning sorted out for us.”
 
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