Unfortunate development Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
September 13, 2002

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THE protest in the first week of the new school year by staff and students at a Georgetown school over deplorable conditions at the school was an unfortunate development.

The action by the staff and students was understandable because they needed to draw attention to the unacceptable conditions under which they were being forced to work and learn.

Some may debate whether the protest was justified or not, because a school protest has a major element of difference from that of traditional industrial action by workers protesting poor working conditions.

And that element of course is the welfare of children because in such situations they will be deprived of tuition.

The debate on the issue aside, when members of the media visited the school during the protest they found that conditions there were indeed appalling and required remedial action.

In response to the situation, the Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry said it was not that the school had been ignored, but that the building was among schools tendered for repairs, which should have been done during the August vacation.

Vacation periods are obviously the best time to slate schools for major repairs because of reasons of convenience and safety for the children and staff.

What is disturbing in the explanation given is that the repair plan for the school did not materialise in time because of "bottlenecks" at the Tender Board.

Given the state of the school building and the urgency that should have been given to timely repairs, it surely must be unacceptable that reported "bottlenecks" at the Tender Board should have caused the delay - triggering the protest by students and teachers?

We would have expected that the members of the Tender Board would have been aware of the consequences of procrastinating on such a project and not allow "bottlenecks" at their level to stand in the way of ensuring progress in the vital education sector.

If the Tender Board had encountered any difficulties in meeting the deadline for the project, this should have been communicated early so that the administrators at the Education Ministry would have been able to make alternative arrangements and avoid the unfortunate situation that developed, where hundreds of children lost valuable hours of tuition.

Something obviously went wrong in the chain of administration in this matter and there should be a thorough investigation so that there would not be a recurrence.

Such developments run counter to the national policy of education being the key to national development and the fight against poverty.

Another area where there seemed to have been serious lapses was communication between the administrators at the Education Ministry and the head of the school, because apparently the head was totally unaware of what was the position.

The head told the media that the week before schools reopened, she reminded the ministry through a letter about the horrible conditions but claimed she received no response.

This kind of attitude is certainly unacceptable and the authorities need to look into this case.

Most human beings are reasonable and once they are communicated with in a proper and suitable manner they will understand and compromise.

What happened at this Georgetown school was most unfortunate and all steps should be taken to ensure it is not repeated.