Sickout

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Just two days after Government addressed security and environmental concerns at two rural schools, another was hit by apparent industrial action today.

This morning the staff at the Milton Lynch Primary School were forced to call in parents to pick up students after all but three teachers called in sick. Barbados TODAY understands that the educators have long complained of environmental issues related to the physical infrastructure and facilities at the Christ Church school.

When contacted president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), Sean Spencer, said that he was unable to address the subject of a sickout, but suggested that “The staff may simply be expressing their valid frustrations and seeking to draw attention to the plight of those who occupy the school, six hours a day, five days a week.”

BUT President Sean Spencer
BUT President Sean Spencer

Barbados TODAY visited the all boys’ school this morning and witnessed parents picking up their charges. One parent, who did not want to be identified, said while she understood the concerns of the teachers, the closure of the school was problematic for her, as she had to leave work to pick up her son. “We really didn’t know that this was going to happen today, and I had to ask for time off to pick up my child and I have to stay home with him. The school is in a mess in truth and I hope this is sorted out soon,” she said.

Spencer explained that the buildings were in desperate need of maintenance. He charged that the school was infested with termites and rodents, and this is compounded by poor toilet facilities and ventilation issues.

“It is the view of the union that inspection and maintenance require a serious re-think on the part of policymakers. The current physical state of the school indicates there exists an urgent need for infrastructural work to be undertaken. The toilet facilities for students, ceilings housing pigeons, inadequate lighting, rodents and ventilation have proven to be problematic at the school. Termite infestation has contributed to the rate of environmental degradation. This makes it increasingly difficult to function,” he explained.

He lamented that on a recent visit to the school, union officials were able to observe and confirm cases of domesticated and wild animals traversing the premises of Milton Lynch Primary. Pigeons and other birds, dogs, cats and monkeys were all seen on the compound during the visit by the executive of the [BUT].

In addition to the problems on the inside, a vacant field with cow-itch vines is impacting students and teachers. The trade unionist further suggested that such is the condition of the school that some parents have opted to withdraw their children.

Spencer revealed, “It is also being suggested that the student roll is declining as parents withdraw their sons. Should one examine the physical conditions, one may wonder precisely what message is being sent to the young boys who represent the student body. Today’s boys are tomorrow’s fathers and husbands. What level of self-actualisation will they trend towards as a consequence of the institutional deficits?”

Barbados TODAY reached out to Acting Minister of Education Lucille Moe for comment, but was unsuccessful.

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