Teachers stage sit-in over conditions at Linden school

Teachers at a secondary school in Linden staged a sit-in on Friday to press the region to fast-track repairs to the school, saying that the conditions are dangerous.

As a result of the situation, head teacher Cleveland Thomas of the Christianburg-Wismar Secondary School instituted a half-day session, while saying that he supported the teachers’ action since their work environment has been compromised. During recent downpours, the school building has been flooded, including the staff rooms and two apartments on the ground floor.

When teachers arrived at the school on Friday, a number of rooms, including the senior masters’ room, were flooded. Several floors were waterlogged, while texts books and records were soaked. “Records that we were able to save from the fire that were packed away in boxes and put in a place where we thought they were going to be safe are all now destroyed,” Thomas said.

Teachers engaged in the sit in on Friday

The Region 10 administration is finalising a $4 million contract to cover repairs to the school building, which was recently damaged by fire, and Regional Executive Officer Henry Rodney said on Friday that there would be a meeting to work out temporary housing for the students in order to facilitate repairs.

Thomas told Stabroek News that he pleaded with Rodney for the contractor to visit the school to give staff and students some assurance that the works would commence soon. “I stayed here until after 4 pm and no one showed up,” he said, while adding that since sections of the building was destroyed by fire a month ago, he has been in constant contact with the regional officials pleading with them to speed up the repairs.”Rodney assured me that things have already gone to tender board, the contract had already been awarded to a contractor…,” he said.

Teachers noted that the crumbling ceilings and compromised electrical wiring posed a threat to their safety and that of the over 1,100 student population. Additionally, they noted that there were only 10 toilets for the student population while two toilets were for teachers. “Boys and girls are sharing the same toilet facilities and this is totally unacceptable,” a teacher said, while explaining that because the student toilets are distributed along the three floors of the school, it is difficult to segregate them.

The repairs have also affected Roxanne Bacchus, a teacher who occupies an apartment on the ground floor of the building. Teachers said Bacchus and her family had no place to go temporarily until the roof of the breached building is covered. “All night that woman had to be bailing water…,” one of them said, while adding that authorities should have been helping Bacchus since she is the one who can be credited with saving the rest of the building when the fire occurred on September 15. “It was teacher Roxanne who alerted the neighbourhood early enough to prevent worse from happening and no one is coming to her aid or considering her now,” the teacher added.

Meanwhile, Rodney told this newspaper that he spoke with Thomas and informed him that the necessary steps were being taken to facilitate the repairs to the school building. “Right now we are in the process of penning the contract and I told him that these things have to go through certain processes, it’s not just like that,” he said.

Rodney said that as a result of the situation, he would seek to convene a meeting with the heads of the Region 10 Department of Education to work out a contingency plan to ensure that classes go on.

According to him, there is available space at two other schools, St Aidan’s Primary—which is in the same community as the Christianburg school—and the Mackenzie Primary, with is on the opposite side of Linden.

However, teachers said this plan would not work, explaining that it would be impossible for any effective teaching to take place if they have to be travelling long distances to get to classes on a period basis.

Rodney, who was unaware of the sit-in, added that he hoped the teachers were prepared to face the consequences for their actions on Friday.

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