‘Rental’ strangling Cummings Lodge school sellers

Vendors at the Cummings Lodge Secondary School are faced with a steep rental which is eating into their profits and one vendor said she is being targeted by the school administration which has denied the claim.

Donna Luknauth (right) stands behind her sno-cone cart outside the Cummings Lodge Secondary School yesterday. In the background are the pieces of zinc that were nailed to the fence.

Donna Luknauth, a sno-cone vendor of Cummings Lodge said the actions of the administration are aimed at preventing her from selling at the school. She claimed that the headmaster has a personal agenda against her and is going all out to make her life uncomfortable. She accused him of trying to stymie her livelihood by discouraging the children from buying from her, parking his car in her selling spot and recently nailing pieces of zinc across the fence through which she sells.

Luknauth who sells sno-cones, snacks and pastries, has been selling at the school for the past eight years. She said initially vendors were required to pay $300 per week to vend at the school. However, the price steadily rose until it reached $6,000 a month. At present the cost to vend at the school is $25,000 per month.

At the beginning of 2009, there were 11 vendors in the school’s environs paying the rent to the school’s PTA. However in February, they were all put out of the school compound and informed that there would be a bidding process where the persons with the highest bid would be able to sell at the stalls in the school’s compound.

Of the 11 vendors, four can now be found in the compound while Luknauth continues to sell from behind the school’s fence.

A school official who spoke with Stabroek News requested to do so under the condition of anonymity. The teacher said it was not the head teacher who had made the decision about the vendors; rather all measures had been put in place by the school’s PTA.

The teacher showed this newspaper a circular sent by the Ministry of Education dated February 12, 2009 with reference to the removal of vendors from the school and having the PTA regularise any vending carried out at the school.

The teacher said previously vendors were in disarray in the school’s compound and there was now a sense of order that measures were put in place. The vendors have signed a contract with the PTA to offer their services and the rent is collected by a member of the association and not school officials, the source said.

When asked about the presence of the zinc, the official said it was put up by the PTA.  Every decision has been made by the PTA, the official said.

When Stabroek News spoke to some of the vendors, they said the rent was too high but there was nothing they could do about it, they have to find a way to come up with the money.  One vendor said when she complained to a PTA member, she was told, “If you can’t pay then leave the school compound.”

Another vendor said he found the rent costly and there are times when he does not make enough profit to cover the rent.  Additionally, he said, the vendors had to bear the cost of constructing their own stalls.

The vendors lamented the failure of the school’s administration to inform them when there is a double session or no school as they would be left with the products they made for the day “on their hands.”

When contacted for a comment, Mr Sukhu of the PTA declined to speak on the issue.  He said he would prefer to address the issue at a meeting between the concerned parties. However, he did say that the rental for the stalls was set at a meeting between the PTA, vendors and headmaster.
He said none of the vendors ever contacted him with any problems they experienced.  As it relates to the zinc, he said he had no knowledge as to its placement.

Efforts to contact officials at the Ministry of Education for a comment proved futile.

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