The dormitory at the Port Kaituma Secondary School is without a cook and parents of the over 50 children in residence are calling on the regional administration and other responsible authorities to rectify the situation immediately.
Stabroek News was informed that up to two weeks ago, there was one cook attached to the facility. However, after falling ill, she proceeded on sick leave for seven days, before deciding to resign.
Contacted Regional Chairman, Fermin Singh told this newspaper yesterday that the acting Regional Education Officer (REO) has informed him that there is no cook at the moment but a substitute is being sought.
He explained that regional officials were told to find a new cook until the woman recovered. “They were given instructions to get someone temporary,” he said. Singh was unaware that the woman had resigned.
Meanwhile, the cook, who asked not to be named, said via telephone that she was on sick leave and though it has ended she is still unwell. She said that she had decided not to return to work and will be delivering her resignation letter before the end of the week.
“I was the only cook there and I was finding it very difficult,” she said, while adding that she cooked three meals for about 54 children every day. The woman said that she had been cooking there for some five years and that there had been two other cooks. She explained that one resigned while the other retired in July of this year.
“It was unfair because it was only two cooks left. They could’ve let her stay on. Why they insist that the other one retire?” she said pointing out that the region could have asked the other cook to stay on.
The woman insisted that she did not want to return to that “unfair” environment.
Resident Richard Allen said he was shocked when he turned up at the school about two weeks ago and was informed that there was no cook. He said that when he inquired, he learnt that the cook was on sick leave. At the time of his visit he said, a regional education official was there.
Allen said that he asked the official and the headmistress what arrangements were put in place but he got no favourable response. The concerned resident told Stabroek News that the dorm mother (matron) recently received a letter from the REO instructing her that she must not enter the kitchen to cook. “There is no staff so how are they [the children] eating?” he asked.
He said later that despite the warning letter, the dorm mother was assisting the headmistress in preparing meals for the children.
Allen said that often the headmistress had to leave her work behind to go to the kitchen so that the children could eat on time.
He said he spoke to another education official who told him no one was interested in the job. A resident, he said, volunteered but opted not to follow through with it because she was being asked to sign too many documents.
“There are three dorms in this region and none of them are like Port Kaituma,” he said, adding that food supplies are brought to the school from Mabaruma, some 70 miles away when they could be sourced from right in the area.
He said that at present there is no meat at the school and the children are often fed corned beef and chowmein. “What can they get from eating that?” he questioned.
Meanwhile, a concerned parent who lives at Matthew’s Ridge said that she may be forced to take her child home because she had no money to give her to buy things to eat every day.
Patricia Edwards said that some time during last week, her daughter informed her that there was no cook. “I may have to bring her home until they find a cook,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want to do that because her daughter is the first of her five children to attend secondary school. She said that based on what she is being told the house mother is only cooking once per day.
In this regard, she said, it means her daughter will have to get things to eat during the rest of the day. She said that she is in a tough financial spot as sometimes she works in the back dam for about a month. She said that last month she sent money for her 13-year-old child and it is already finished.
“They got to do something because is chirren and they may not have money,” Edwards said, while warning that such a situation could cause the children to start begging.
She said she would very much like her child to remain at school but the food situation has her worried. “She don’t want to come home. I explained to her that I can’t afford it,” the mother said.