Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 7th 2014 Contents A5
Tuesday, January 7, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Several schools across the country
remained closed yesterday but there was a
dispute between the Ministry of Education
and the teacher s union as to the number.
Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh
identified four schools, including Malick Sec-
ondary School, which will re-open on January
13, St Dominic s (Savio) RC, Barataria Boys
RC, scheduled to be opened this morning
and tomorrow and Lower Cumuto Govern-
ment Primary, for which no date has been
given for re-opening.
However, the Trinidad and Tobago Unified
Teachers Association (TTUTA) disputed the
ministry s claim, saying the figure is much
higher. TTUTA s president Devanand Sinanan
said the ministry did not do what it was
supposed to do during the Christmas vaca-
tion, hence the reason for the continuing
closure of so many schools.
The situation has extended the vacation
time for hundreds of students across Trinidad
and even in Tobago where all infants and
Standard One students were told to stay at
home for another week. This is to facilitate
a primary curriculum training session for
primary teachers and principals.
In a release, the ministry stated: "The re-
opening of schools for the second term of
the academic year 2013-2014 has been a suc-
cess, as 99.7 per cent of schools opened their
doors to receive the nation s children."
The ministry attributed that to "the hard
work of school supervisors, ministry officials,
principals and members of the Education
Facility Company Limited (EFCL)."
The ministry, through EFCL, is responsible
for the repairs and maintenance of 476 Gov-
ernment and Government-Assisted Primary
Schools, 134 Government and Government
Assisted Secondary Schools and 193 Early
Childhood Centre for Education Centres in
The ministry said it was committed to
ensure the comfort and safety of all students,
teachers and staff and pointed out that minor
school repairs and maintenance would con-
tinue to be carried out after school hours
and during the weekend to avoid disruption
Open under sub-standard conditions
Sinanan, on the other hand, called on
Gopeesingh to demonstrate his commitment
by doing what was needed to be done. He
identified a list of schools which remained
closed and others which opened its doors
but continued to operate under sub-standard
Sinanan said while students and teachers
reported for school, in one instance at Princes
Town East Secondary, the entrance to the
compound was blocked because of unfinished
work being undertaken by the contractor.
The school population had to wend their
way to the school.
The union s first vice president Lynsley
Doodhai added that after making their way
to the school building, students and teachers
discovered the air-condition unit was not
functioning. Doodhai said each classroom,
which has as many as 37 students, is built
in such a way that it could only be occupied
if the air-conditioning was working.
He said school was not dismissed but the
teachers retired to the staffroom where there
was a functioning unit.
He said TTUTA members have also
informed the union there was a presence of
mould in the building and the union would
soon be writing to the ministry on that issue.
Similarly, he said, while students and teach-
ers reported for school at the North Man-
zanilla Primary, classes had to be suspended
because of problems with the infrastructure.
He added that classes were also affected
at Lower Cumuto Government Primary,
which was scheduled for occupation on Mon-
day. He said union members had already
packed up their belongings last term to move
into the new building but met locked doors
on the first day of the term.
The ministry said every effort was made
to accommodate students and teachers of
the Lower Cumuto but heavy rains over the
weekend inundated the sewer system, forcing
the early dismissal of classes.
Doodhai also pointed to the closure of St
Dominic s (Savio) RC and Malick Secondary
but the ministry s statement said St Dominic s
is scheduled to be opened this morning.
With respect to Malick Secondary, where
dry-ice blasting was still being undertaken
by Century 21 to get rid of mould from three
of five classrooms, students would have to
spend another week at home.
The ministry assured the school was sched-
uled to be re-opened on January 13 to facilitate
major works being undertaken by EFCL.
Doodhai pointed out that school was also
dismissed shortly after the commencement
of classes at the St Mary s Government Pri-
mary, due to an ongoing sewer problem from
the term before.
"Nothing was done over the vacation."
in La Brea
While La Brea pupils turned up in their num-
bers yesterday for the start of the new school
term, it was not the same for children living
near oil-spill affected Coffee Beach.
That after most of the parents directly affected
by the December 17, 2013 spill opted to keep their
children away from school for varying reasons
When the T&T Guardian visited Coffee Beach
yesterday children were seen milling about outside
their homes during school hours.
La Brea mother of eight, Charmaine Montano,
said her 12-year-old son stayed home from school
because his school was expected to re-open on
However, she said two of her nephews and her
granddaughter stayed home because they were
"The children feeling sick. They throat hurting
them. We had to carry the children by the doctor.
My son complain of chest pains and they did not
do any tests, they just give me something to rub
on his chest. This is how they dealing with people
in here, they unfair," Montano said.
She said residents still have some hope that
Petrotrin would "do right by them" and help the
While clean-up operations continued in the
area Montano said they were still unable to cook
their own meals.
She said the state-run company was providing
meals for the residents and has set up a medical
clinic at the La Brea Community Centre.
However, she believes the residents should be
relocated to proper homes and should not have
to be made to pay for something that was not
Mariah John, 13, Montano s niece, said she did
not attend school yesterday because she was not
feeling well. She attends the Vance River RC Pri-
Yesterday workers were seen tying oil booms
along the shore to trap oil. The sand on the shore,
which was once covered with a layer of oil, has
regained its brown hue, a stark contrast from the
last two weeks when it was stained with black
No disruptions in La Brea
Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, in a
radio interview, indicated that there was no dis-
ruption to schools in La Brea and it was business
as usual on the first day of the new school term.
Yesterday Education Ministry media relations
officer Yolanda Morales-Carvalho confirmed the
schools in the La Brea area opened as expected
and had a good turnout of students.
She said at the La Brea Roman Catholic Primary
School, Church Street, La Brea, 300 pupils attend-
ed school out of a population of 376.
Morales-Carvalho added the 76 absent students
could not be attributed to the oil spill that was
affecting the southwestern peninsula.
"It (the absent pupils) could be different reasons.
Sometimes people travel and they claim could
not get back in time for school," she explained.
She said 300 out of a population of 376 was
"a pretty good turnout."
When the T&T Guardian visited the school
last afternoon the school s front gate was locked.
A security officer said the principal ordered that
no media personnel be allowed onto the com-
Students were assembled in the school audi-
torium at that time with their teachers.
At the Brighton Anglican Primary School, Main
Road, La Brea, the turnout was also high. Out of
a population of 202 pupils 144 turned up for
Standard Two pupils of St Agnes Primary School, St James, get down to work on their first day of the new school term yesterday.
PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
Bumpy start to
new school term
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