Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 19th 2013 Contents A22
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, October 19, 2013
Principal of St Augustine Girls' High School Joanne Mahadeo, third from left, enjoys a moment with special
awardees and open scholarship winners, from left, Karishma Roopchand, Jade Mendoza, Pavitra
Ramlochan, Tai Falby, and Meagan Mohammed, who received an additional scholarship during the school's
graduation exercise, in St Augustine, on Thursday. PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES
Teachers and students from
yet another school, Mt Hope
Secondary, left the school last
Wednesday because of a poten-
tially-explosive electrical prob-
"The school was closed
because of an overloading of the
electrical system. There were trip-
ping breakers, overheating elec-
trical panels, incidents of people
being shocked when they tried
to plug in devices into outlets,"
T&T Unified Teachers Association
(TTUTA) general secretary Peter
Wilson told the Guardian yester-
He said Mt Hope Secondary, a
converted junior secondary
school, was one of the older
schools and new equipment and
extra air-conditioning systems
were added over the years with-
out upgrading the electrical sys-
"Occupational Safety and
Health personnel were called in
and the teachers took a decision
to remove themselves," he said.
There are now over 3,000 sec-
ondary school students who are
not attending school because of
health and safety concerns as a
He said a replacement building
has been under construction next
to Mt Hope Secondary for several
TTUTA has also been told of
infrastructural problems at several
other dilapidated former junior
secondary schools, including in
Siparia, the constituency of Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar,
There had been no school at
Pleasantville Secondary, a dilap-
idated school which was under
repairs, for the term, he said.
"They only reopened this week
and have been running the school
on half day, but it was dangerous
with the contractors on the site.
There are open trenches, hanging
Wilson said Marabella South
Secondary, opened only a few
years ago, was also closed when
its air-conditioning system broke
"Teachers could not work, stu-
dents were fainting, because of
the heat. Because of the way the
building was constructed, there
was little air and there was an
infestation of mould, which can
cause respiratory problems.
"Teachers removed themselves
earlier this week."
Wilson also recalled the case
of hundreds of students at South
East Port-of-Spain who have also
been missing school because of
a badly leaking roof.
"Rain was pouring down into
the classrooms, sensitive equip-
ment like computers were getting
He said the Prime Minister and
Education Minister Dr Tim
Gopeesingh visited the school
recently and a promise was given
that repairs would be done.
"Work has begun and is pro-
ceeding slowly, but teachers said
they are getting no information
about when it would be complet-
ed," he reported. "It s already five
to six weeks into the school year
and students have not yet started
school. The Caribbean Second-
ary Education Certificate exams
are coming up soon, too."
Education Ministry commu-
nications specialist Yolanda
Morales-Carvalho said repair
work was continuing at the school
and the Education Facilities Com-
pany Ltd (EFCL) had estimated
it will take another week.
She said the EFCL arranged
with the teachers and the prin-
cipal to close the school to speed
up the work. Repairs had dragged
on because the contractors had
been working only after school.
She insisted that Pleasantville
Secondary and Mt Hope Second-
ary had reopened and were up
Commenting on the situation,
National Parent Teacher Associ-
ation president Zena Ramatali
said, "It s so unfair to the children.
They are losing out on so much.
There are those who have exams
"What about the Form Ones?
Form One provides an important
foundation for students." (YB)
Electrical problems shut Mt Hope school
A big stink, related to sewage from
the Housing Development Corpora-
tion s (HDC) Fidelis Heights housing
development, has forced teachers and
students to flee from the St Augustine
T&T Unified Teachers Association
(TTUTA) general secretary Peter Wilson
yesterday told the T&T Guardian teach-
ers decided to leave the school two weeks
ago because of a malfunctioning sewer
system which resulted in effluent backing
up, flowing out of toilets and creating
an unbearable smell.
Wilson said the students have joined
thousands of others all over T&T who
are not attending school because their
teachers also removed themselves from
their buildings over health and safety
He said according to information he
received, the problem at St Augustine
Secondary might be the result of a deci-
sion to use the school s sewerage plant
to facilitate residents of Fidelis Heights.
The houses at Fidelis Heights were
constructed by the last PNM adminis-
tration, north of the school.
He said, "Apparently the intention
was that the plant at the school was
supposed to deal with waste from both
the school and the housing development.
We always felt that was prone to trouble."
Education Ministry communications
specialist Yolanda Morales-Carvalho,
speaking on behalf of the Education
Facilities Company (EFCL), confirmed
the sewer system at St Augustine Sec-
ondary was related to the system at
"I was advised that is the case," she
Morales-Carvalho said all commu-
nication with EFCL must be done
through the ministry and gave the
response after she passed on the T&T
Guardian s concerns to the company.
EFCL is a special-purpose state com-
pany set up by the last administration
to build and repair schools for the Edu-
Wilson said up until two weeks ago,
the school was "limping along, trying
to have classes" despite overflowing
effluence and the prevailing stench.
He said: "School would be dismissed
early but the situation became so
unbearable that the teachers took the
decision to remove themselves from the
school until the sewerage system was
"It was a direct threat to their health
and safety and that of the students and
TTUTA supported them.
"The ministry had promised to repair
the pumps in the interim and then
replace them eventually but none of
that has happened, as far as we know."
Wilson said TTUTA called on EFCL
to repair the problem and the company
visited the school, as well as Occupa-
tional Safety and Health authorities.
Morales-Carvalho said the school s
acting principal had told her a public
health inspector visited the school
recently and reported it was safe to
She said despite that clearance, teach-
ers took the decision to remove them-
"There was no reason for them to
remove themselves," she said.
She said 300 of the school s 1,100
students attended school yesterday and
some 14 teachers showed up for duty.
EFCL said it had done repair works
on the sewerage system and was mon-
itoring it, she said.
"The contractors on the site have
been mandated to fix whatever needed
fixing and replace whatever needed
"It is not a temporary fix. EFCL will
also maintain the system every three
months. They are going to resolve the
problem," she said.
Jearlean John, managing director of
HDC, also confirmed that wastewater
from the compound of Fidelis Heights
went into the sewerage plant at St
But she said that had nothing to do
with the current problem at the school.
"Fidelis Heights shares the plant with
the school but it is the responsibility of
EFCL to maintain the plant," she said.
She said it was not the HDC that
made decisions about where sewage
from a development went but the Water
and Sewerage Authority.
"That is the utility that makes those
decisions," John said.
She said she was told EFCL already
had awarded a contract for the weekly
maintenance of the sewerage system.
Morales-Carvalho said EFCL met
with the school s principal and teachers
Responding to reports that teachers
and parents were not being kept
informed, she said:
"Teachers and parents are supposed
to get information from the principal.
It is how it has always been. First-hand
information about school repairs and
other related matters comes from him.
If not, they can contact their district
President of the National Parent
Teacher Association Zena Ramatali
expressed concern about the length of
time students had to stay away from
school while repairs were done.
She said alternative accommodation
could be found to facilitate them even
if it was for half-day.
Big stink at
SAGHS SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS
Teachers, students stay away
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