The Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region Four yesterday announced that it would be taking immediate steps to fix toilets at the Enmore/Hope Primary School following the decision by parents to keep their children away until the problem was settled.
While parents yesterday welcomed the initiative of the region they questioned why it took so long for the regional office to hear their cries and heed the plight of their children.
The parents say that the toilets have been dysfunctional for over two years and according to them letters were written to Regional Educa-tional Officer (REdO) Sandra Smith who reportedly told them that the letters had been forwarded to the Regional Executive Officer (REO).
However, Regional Chair-man Clement Corlette yesterday told Stabroek News that as far as he knew the region was not informed about the issue before Wednesday at the emergency meeting when the parents took the decision. He said that the regional officer responsible for primary schools in the region reported that she only knew of the issue when she attended the meeting on Wednesday.
But parents are refuting the claim by the officer, stating that the toilets and teachers’ absenteeism have been burning issues for some time now.
And while they are thankful for the intervention by the region they are upset that their children had to be exposed to dirty overflowing toilets for over two years while being forced at times to relieve themselves in the compound. “Why we had to protest by keeping our children home before actions could be taken?” one parent asked yesterday.
The RDC in a release yesterday said that after the conditions of the sanitary blocks at the school were “highlighted, students and teachers are expected to work in comfort as the problems are slated for correction immediately.”
According to the release a “prompt intervention” by REO Shafdar Alli, Regional Engineer and Senior Superintendents of Works have “confirmed that rehabilitation of the existing sanitary blocks will commence immediately and an additional one for the teachers will also be constructed.”
“The visit to the school by regional officials has brought some relief for the fuming parents since most of their problems were addressed,” the release said.
It quoted Alli as saying that the regional administration will continue to alleviate such situations and that it would be focusing on improving the education delivery within the region.
“The REO further stated that the administration is encouraging stakeholders to be more vigilant and pro-active so as to bring about changes within the region,” the release concluded.
Parents yesterday express-ed the hope that the administration would also investigate the number of days teachers are absenting themselves from school much to the disadvantage of their children. According to some parents teachers do not mark their children’s books and this is a concern to them.
“At one time this school was the envy of the East Coast because it did so well but now the school gone to the bottom,” one parent said.
And while they welcomed the visit by the regional officials at the school yesterday parents were displeased at the attitude of some of the education officials who, according to some parents, had abused them. One female parent said that the REdO “come up to me and point up she finger in my face saying is me mek dem parents keep the children home, this time I ent even been at the meeting when the decision mek,” the parent said. She said she was also accused of “putting a pack of lies in the newspapers.”
“They are just upset that we highlight the issue but if they had listened to us all this time, it didn’t have to come to this. We try everything and nothing was happening,” one parent said.
Yesterday scores of children turned up at the school compound and voiced their concerns to a number of media representatives that were at the school.
Another burning issue for the parents is corporal punishment being administered at the school. Although some of them are not against such punishment they are upset by the manner in which it is done which according to them is bordering on abuse.
The education officials reportedly have since launched an investigation into an incident involving a student and a teacher late last month. The mother of the child, Priya Hansraj has since reported the matter to the police and the teacher has given a statement to the lawmen.
Hansraj had told Stabroek News that her child was passing a classroom and overheard two teachers arguing over a blackboard and he stopped and looked on, much to the annoyance of the male teachers. One of them approached him and held him by the collar of his shirt before slamming him into a window and telling him not to “piss him off.” The woman said that the same teacher had assaulted her other son last December. She said that she got very angry when she got no satisfaction from the school after complaining about the teacher’s conduct. This forced her to report the matter to the Enmore Police Station and a statement has since been taken from the teacher.
At the meeting on Wednesday the headmistress had stated that she had spoken to the teacher but Hansraj said that was not enough as her son was very traumatised.
And while the teachers were reminded by the ministry officials of the manual that was sent to all schools stipulating, according to the laws of Guyana, that corporal punishment should only be administered in the presence of the head teacher or by the head teacher, parents are claiming that the officer responsible for the primary school had said that teachers have a right to beat children. Parents have spoken about their children routinely being beaten by teachers.
They said that the officer was very disrespectful to parents who voiced their concern about the sanitary facility and openly challenged one parent who said that the compound was “smelly” because of the overflowing toilets and the fact that children relieve themselves in the compound. The parents said they were admonished about their way of dress by the officer who apparently took no serious note of the complaints they raised at the meeting.
Meanwhile, the parents are hoping that the repairs would be effected over the weekend so that their children could return to school on Monday.