Education Minister Shaik Baksh yesterday expressed deep concern about what he said was the negligence of the Region Four administration in carrying out critical renovation works at the Golden Grove Secondary School which has been at the centre of an uproar over its poor condition.
Parents protested the state of the school at the opening of the new term and have been given a series of promises. However, repairs to the sanitary, electrical and other physical facilities at the 45-year-old school are still to be done.
Baksh, in a statement, said that representatives of the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) met regional officials two weeks ago to discuss the conditions of the school and were given the assurance that their concerns will be addressed.
“However, on to now, rehabilitation works have not yet commenced. A few frustrated members of the PTA on Tuesday met with Minister Baksh to chart the way forward. The minister promised to discuss the matter with Local Government and Regional Development Minister Norman Whittaker and do all within his powers to remedy the problem.”
The statement said the Education Ministry team was scheduled to visit the school today to assess the situation and facilitate a resolution to the problem. The team will look at the furniture, the condition of the building and will call a meeting with parents on the way forward.
“The ministry will continue to provide support to the regions in their planned repairs and maintenance programmes while recognising that they have direct responsibility for these functions in keeping with the decentralised system of education,” the statement said. It reflected an ongoing tension between the regions and the ministry over who should really be responsible for the repairs.
Baksh’s statement said that the education sector is operating under a decentralised system which has been in existence since the 1980s. He added that the repairs and maintenance of schools and the provision of furniture is the direct responsibility of the Regional Democratic Coun-cils, their Regional Education Committees and the Regional Education Departments.
Baksh added, “Least it be misunderstood, the Education Ministry is deeply concerned at the situation at Golden Grove Secondary and in some other schools and has been working on a continuous basis with officials of these schools, the regions and the Local Government and Regional Development Ministry to correct these shortcomings The ministry has been forced to intervene in some of these situations as the regions’ handling of these works run counter to the ministry’s trust of promoting safe, productive and conducive learning environments.”
On September 12 PTA President David Gentle had told Stabroek News that they hoped the protest would result in much needed relief at the dilapidated East Coast Demerara school.
In a telephone interview, Gentle had expressed disbelief and disappointment that the regional council officials made no effort to begin repairing the school during the weekend.
After a failed attempt to mount a protest outside the Office of the President, the PTA wrote a letter to Presi-dent Bharrat Jagdeo and copied to Baksh, with 26 signatures demanding that a structural engineer check the soundness of the school and find an alternative place to accommodate the students.
Gentle sais parents were frustrated and felt deceived since officials at the regional office promised them chang-es. These promises, he stated, were never delivered hence the parents felt they had no alternative but to take their plight to higher authorities. “Even Job who had all the patience would be vexed if this was happening to his children. We will not lay back and allow the school to go to the dogs…,” Gentle had said.