Parents shut down Leeds Primary School

Stabroek News
October 14, 1999

Its dilapidated state and what has been described as unsafe conditions have forced parents to close the Leeds Primary School on the Corentyne indefinitely.

Two weeks ago, parents took a decision to withdraw their children from the school, expressing fear for their safety and concern for their health. The decision to shut down the school was taken after several futile pleas for assistance by members of the Parent Teachers' Association (PTA) and a picketing exercise outside the school two weeks ago.

On Tuesday parents and students moved their protest to New Amsterdam. A group estimated at between 30 to 40 students and their parents picketed the office of the Department of Education on Philadelphia Street and the Regional Administrative Council in Vryman's Erven calling for a new school to be constructed with modern lavatory facilities.

The school's populations been given as 320. According to one parent, "two weeks ago a student fell in the building and broke her arm. Most of the furniture are dilapidated, the floor is rotten, several windows are missing or broken, the walls are falling apart, the stairways are collapsing; the latrines are dilapidated." Another referred to holes in blackboards and the unavailability of furniture for teachers.

One student told Stabroek News about the absence of potable water at the institution while another related the horror of having to use the bushes aback of the school as their latrine.

According to one teacher they are forced to use the toilets of the nearby nursery school while students can only obtain water from the same source, since there is no water supply to the primary school. "Whenever it rains we have to run downstairs to the bottom flat for shelter because the roof leaks," said one teacher.

According to another student "five of us sit on one bench while some have to sit on the floor. Some teachers have to sit on broken desks and as a result we hardly learn anything." An old student said the situation has existed for the past six years.

The Regional Administration has allocated $1.3 million towards rehabilitation works, but, according to the PTA, this is grossly insufficient and cannot even complete the sanitary block. The Department of Education, they say, should tell them "something," and are calling for the intervention of President Bharrat Jagdeo to save the school from totaL collapse.

A Department of Education source told this newspaper that the department could not undertake the construction of a new building because of its limited annual allocation and referred to the $1.3 million allocated by the region. According to the source the PTA has been advised to approach a funding agency to undertake the project.

The two-flat wooden building was built in 1949 while the latrines were erected in 1972. "Since then no maintenance or rehabilitation work by government has been executed on the building," disclosed a former village chairman. "The only work on the school was done by the overseas-based Leeds Restoration Committee."

Parents are expressing concern over their children's future but are adamant that they will continue their action until the situation is addressed.

Last Monday, the PTA of the Golden Grove Primary School, East Coast Demerara closed the school down after a teacher fell through a rotted floor board the previous Friday and fractured her hip.

Over 1,000 children and more than 25 teachers were displaced as a result of this action. However, Primary Four pupils preparing for the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination were subsequently housed on the ground floor of the Haslington/Grove Neighbourhood Democratic Council Office at Nabaclis. And on Tuesday, Guyana Stores Ltd approved in principle for the other pupils to use its building at Golden Grove on a shift system until their new school is completed.

The Ministry of Education is moving to have this expedited.

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