St Winefride’s teachers, students stage protest
Cite unhealthy conditions in renovated school

Stabroek News
January 7, 2003

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Teachers and students of St Winefride’s Secondary School in Newtown, Kitty refused to enter their newly renovated building yesterday saying the conditions are not healthy.

In September, teachers and students had protested the school’s dilapidated condition with a one-day walkout and yesterday they again lined the front entrance of the compound in another protest.

Students who turned up at 8.30 am found that the building which had been under repairs over the Christmas holiday was still not ready. Several pieces of broken furniture, badly damaged chalkboards, toilets out of order and other problems caused the staff to down tools. The school’s administration had been told that everything was in place for classes to begin yesterday, but up to 10 am there was no key for the doors.

The contractor eventually arrived after several calls were made to ministry officials. Teachers were then given a key for the back door which they used to gain entry to the school but on seeing the state of the interior the teachers decided that they were not prepared to work under such conditions. They said they had observed that there was still evidence of putty and paint on the floor, out-of-order electrical lights and most of the windows were not opening.

They complained that some of the school’s instructional aids left on the walls were now missing and from all indications the carpenters had been using the chalkboards to mix their putty and other material. The school is not getting water in the building and as such the few intact toilets cannot be used. The compound of the school has been attended to somewhat but several heaps of sand, stone and used boards dot the yard.

It is clear that extensive work was done on the exterior of the building, including the roof and some amount of land filling along with the construction of a fence.

The teachers said that they would not allow themselves to be pressed into service since they considered the building a health hazard. Efforts to contact an official at the ministry yesterday proved futile. Head teacher Avril Crawford said that the building inspector within the Education Ministry had visited the school yesterday morning and had conceded that the building was not yet fit for the students. The head teacher noted that the inspector had left promising to raise the matter with his superiors so as to decide whether students should report to school. Up to press time he had not made contact with the teachers.

As it is right now, Crawford said her staff would continue to report to school along with the students. She said while they are adamant they would not work in the building, the school’s administration does not have the authority to close it down. Should there be any classes for this week, it would take both the teaching staff and students about three days to properly clean the school, the compound and have its furniture re-arranged and fixed.

A few parents who accompanied their children left with them as it was evident that there would no be no classes.

At least two parents laid some blame on the school’s administration. They said the head teacher, or at least a senior member of staff, should have checked with the contractor before yesterday to sort out the conditions.

The St Winefride’s Secondary School has a student population of 586 with 29 members of staff. (Nigel Williams)

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