Sunday, December 17, 2017

Tim gets earful of woes in school tour

THERE are currently 25 schools in Trinidad with a pigeon infestation problem, and Government will be seeking a scientific approach to dealing with the issue, reported Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh.

He found the problem has gotten worse recently at Diego Martin Boys RC Primary School, one of a number of schools in the Diego Martin area which he toured yesterday with ministry officials.

Speaking with the media at Diego Martin Central Government Secondary School, Gopeesingh said it may also be necessary to get assistance from the University of the West Indies (UWI) Department of Agriculture to address the problem, utilising their scientific experience.

Permanent secretary in the Education Ministry Kathleen Thomas reported that they will be meeting tomorrow with the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs to help address the pigeon infestation problem.

At Diego Martin Boys RC Primary, he noted they were short of four teachers, but they have been hired. He also noted there was an issue with maintenance management: cleaning of the tanks, toilets and surrounding areas.

"And this is something we have to take up at the macro-level, in terms of all principals," he added.

Diego Martin Central principal Claudia Lewis said her school has pigeon problems, with droppings on the window sills, but it was "nothing major". Her main issues were security and infrastructure.

Lewis noted they were supposed to have three National Maintenance Training and Security Co Ltd (MTS) security officers on duty, but sometimes, they have two, one or none.  Continuing on security, she noted their 52-year-old chain-link fence is breached in a number of areas.

"There is a hole where a neighbour's pit bull would visit us every now and again, so we have to be careful in the back," she said.

She reported that they spend about three-quarters of their $1 million annual grant in recurrent expenditure. She said with the age of the school, they have a number of infrastructural issues, including: lack of ventilation in classrooms making them "hot"; falling ceilings in Form Four and Form Five blocks; mesh wire disintegrating; termite and woodlice issues; a "horrible" library; and a need for new furniture, including cabinets.  

"We have a lot of stuff to dump, and its creating problems with the rats and so on," she added.

Lewis also noted the school has also been waiting for an auditorium, practically as long as it has been in existence. Gopeesingh said he would seek to expedite construction of the auditorium and three additional rooms required for technical vocation.

He also instructed his officials to get contractors to go to primary and secondary schools to clean them, and would also seek assistance from the Local Government ministry.

He also noted that for some of the cleaning, he would speak with Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal about utilisation of the Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP), once a month, to clean the school premises and Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) workers to assist with maintenance of school compounds.

Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne, who also joined the tour, pointed out they have no CEPEP gangs in the Diego Martin, area and it was an issue he has been raising.

"I'm here only on school business," Gopeesingh laughed.