Parents shut termite infested school
Repairs underway
Stabroek News
January 29, 2004

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Parents of students at Supply Primary School, East Bank Demerara have withdrawn their children in protest over the deplorable condition of the building.

On Monday, the parents barred the doors of the bottom flat of the school, took their children onto the street and demanded that the Education Ministry effect emergency repairs on the building.

Regional officials have since responded to the parents' calls and work on the building commenced yesterday.

Contacted by this newspaper, Desiree Andrews, Headmistress of the school said the contractors yesterday began dismantling the eastern wall which was collapsing and also started repairs on the defective floor and ceiling. On Monday regional officials had promised to submit their repair plans by yesterday to the school.

Andrews said she was impressed with their quick response even though it should have been done before the protest.

Speaking to Stabroek News on Tuesday Andrews, said the school had several problems. She said apart from its deplorable state, the building was too small resulting in students being crammed into small classrooms.

Andrews said the protest had been building for a long time but the staff had made several interventions which caused the parents to change their minds. She said on Monday the parents took action because nothing had happened despite several promises from the ministry. Andrews said while she did not want her school to be disrupted, she could not help but support the parents' cause, adding that not only the students were affected but also the teaching staff.

Andrews said her school had around 300 pupils and adequate staff, but the classrooms were too small. She said along with the overcrowding they had to cope with a defective floor, bat-infested cupboards, damaged windows and a messy schoolyard.

In addition, she said the school's southern fence had been torn down, the toilets were out of order and the roof was leaking. The head teacher also complained that the eastern wall was falling apart and the ceiling over the bottom flat was so damaged that wood ants were now all over the boards. Stabroek News was told that periodically the nests of the wood ants would break and fall on the children, resulting in skin rashes and other infections.

Andrews disclosed that following the protest on Monday, the regional officials promised to immediately rebuild the ceiling, replace the eastern wall and fix the torn down fence. She said too that they promised to look into the issue of overcrowding. Andrews observed that the schoolyard did not have the length for the expansion but there was some space on the two sides.

She said it was hoped that once the first phase of the emergency works were completed the issue of overcrowding could be dealt with properly.

Meanwhile, Andrews said classes will no longer be held in the bottom flat. She said all the doors were now barred and the furniture secured. Classes would now be held on a shift basis until the repairs were completed.

Roxanne Williams, a parent and also the cleaner of the school, said the school building was too old. The woman told Stabroek News that the structure had been there for over 50 years and had seen no major rehabilitation since it was built.

"With this school if three boards need changing they gon come and change two and leave one, and before they come again to change the other one another five would get damage," the parent said. She noted that being the janitor she had to clean the toilets everyday and could not put up with the filth. According to the woman, the toilets are not working and as such when the children used them, they were usually left without being flushed. Stabroek News observed two overhead tanks at the school but they were not in use.

There are a number of primary schools earmarked for rehabilitation this year, but Supply Primary is not among them.

A top Ministry of Education official had said the lack of finance was one of the biggest challenges in rehabilitating the schools.