Teachers of Brickdam Secondary yesterday staged a sit-out in protest over conditions at their school.
The teachers told Stabroek News that they needed to once again highlight the problems that the Brickdam Secondary has been facing for years and about which they have made several complaints.
The school’s building is leaning, its classrooms are small and congested, and there are inadequate washroom facilities for teachers and students. “Since 1995 to now this school had these matters, and teachers who came and went and [some who] are still here have lodged complaints to the Ministry of Education,” one teacher said.
“The building houses over 300 students [and] has outlived its usefulness. Since 2012, or even before that the fire department said that the building should be condemned. If you take a look at the back of the building through Hadfield Street you can see that this building is leaning,” another teacher pointed out.
According to the teachers, the building is a fire hazard and if a fire breaks out it would be difficult for the students to get out in a safe manner.
Another teacher said that it’s even dangerous to walk in the building, stating that she was injured twice on the job. She said once her shoe heel got caught between the floorboards and as a result she twisted her ankle.
“It is very difficult to teach when your voice is competing with other teachers. It is very distracting for me, much less the students,” one junior teacher said.
“I mean the classrooms are small and you can hear everything, we need proper classrooms,” another teacher added.
Apart from the building being in a poor state, one teacher said that the washroom facilities are in such a bad condition, it forces the children to hold in their urine.
“Several girls in the school have fallen ill with urinary tract infections. There are no sick bays for them and so we can’t help them,” a teacher said, adding that the school only has two toilets for 30 teachers and just three toilets for about 360 students which are in a terrible state.
During the sit-out Chief Education Officer Olato Sam showed up to persuade the teachers to go back to work. “Go back to your classes and go teach the people children that you’re being paid to teach and we will address your concerns,” Sam told the teachers.
He advised them to organize themselves properly and get a representative to take their concerns to the Ministry of Education. Sam also told the teachers that if they continued with their “illegal action,” the ministry will not discuss anything with them. He insisted that they have to go through the formal process.
He also told the teachers that this is the first time he is hearing of their complaints and his education officers have never heard of them either. However, the teachers remained adamant that complaints have been sent to the ministry for years.
One teacher also told him that in 2009, under a past Head Teacher, their complaint had reached the ministry and it was discussed in a boardroom that Brickdam Secondary would have been merged with Central High School. The teacher added that Sam was a part of that meeting and questioned how he could now say he had never heard their complaints.
And despite Sam’s entreaties, the teachers said they won’t be returning to their classrooms until the issues at the school are addressed by the Ministry of Education.