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The Hopetown Primary School, West Coast Berbice, remains closed twelve days after the new school year commenced two Mondays ago as parents and teachers remain steadfast in their protest over conditions and an incomplete access bridge to the building.
Parents and teachers carried out a picketing exercise yesterday outside the Regional Administration Complex at Fort Wellington just over one mile from the centre of the controversy.
When the new school year began on September 1, the 400-odd students and some 40 teachers did not join their colleagues across the country in going to the classroom but instead staged a protest on the Hopetown public road a short distance from their place of learning. They refused to commence classes saying they could not access the building because of an incomplete concrete bridge. However, Regional Executive Officer Esmy Rockcliffe told this newspaper that the newly constructed bridge had to be “infilled” and this was likely to be completed this week.
According to the REO the parents and teachers were informed of this and were advised to use an alternative access bridge to the nearby nursery school in the meantime, but refused.
She described the claims made by the PTA as “minor,” contending that should not have prevented them from holding classes.
President of the PTA, Greldene McCallmon told Stabroek News that since the school was built eight years ago the roof had been leaking but despite several reports made to the Department of Education and the Regional Administration it had not been repaired. According to McCallmon, the association approached the Education Department and the administration on three occasions since school re-opened regarding their concerns but were told that nothing could be done at this time.
The association she said met on Tuesday and agreed to stage the picketing exercise because of the negative responses it had received from education and regional officials.
Rockcliffe however disclosed that a contract has been awarded for repairs to be carried out on the building including the roof, and that works are expected to commence next week. At least three members of the PTA told this newspaper that this information was not passed on to them.
According to McCallmon apart from the bridge and the roof, no water is available in the building and as a result the teachers’ toilets are inoperable while the two latrines built for the students are not only inadequate but are also in a bad state. The fence she said is in need of repair and “some classes are without furniture and the school is without a sweeper/cleaner.”
One parent pointed out that some schools in the sub-region have cleaners who are paid by the Department of Education. “The concerns of the PTA were raised with an official of the department last month but unfortunately nothing came out of that meeting,” the parent complained.
The REO while admitting that the roof had been leaking whenever it rains said repairs were recently carried out on the two latrines. Responding to the complaints in relation to the water supply, Rockcliffe said the problem arose because of the new pumping hours recently introduced by the Guyana Water Inc which are incompatible with school hours.
Teachers pointed out that while some amount of furniture was provided by the administration there is need for additional furniture if some classes are to be convened.
The association is calling for remedial works to commence immediately in all the areas of concern, adding that they have only been receiving promises over the years. They plan to continue their protest until the matters have been addressed.
Regional officials on the other hand say the problems are not serious enough to prevent the commencement of classes and have questioned the commitment of parents and teachers towards the children’s education.