I am the parent of a student at Bishops’ High School. A few weeks ago, at a Parent-Teachers Association meeting, the headmistress reported on a situation where the safety rails along the corridors of the catwalk were falling off and leaving gaping holes along corridors which are two and three stories high. The headmistress (HM) stated that she reported the matter to the Ministry of Education (MOE) who sent in the relevant official/s to inspect the situation. The HM further explained that, while the MOE stated that the rails had to be replaced, the replacement could not be done immediately since funds would have to be made available via budgetary allocation before the repairs can be undertaken. As such it was highly unlikely that it could be undertaken anytime in the immediate future. The HM then asked us to advise our children of the dangers of the situation.
As a parent, I must express my dissatisfaction with the response from the ministry. Yes, effecting repairs to the rails would most likely be very costly. Yes, such repairs are not within the approved budget of the ministry. But, is it right for the ministry to be prioritizing costs over the safety and well-being of our children? If, heaven forbid, one of our children suffers an unfortunate accident and falls through those gaping holes among the rails the end result will almost certainly be death or life threatening injuries. Would money then suffice as an excuse for the ministry?
Our country has provisos where unbudgeted funds can be released for emergency purposes. Certainly a situation which endangers the life and limb of over 500 of our children can be cited as an emergency situation. Has the ministry even attempted to source funds along this route if indeed funds are not available within the budget of the ministry?
It might even be asked if the minister is aware of this dangerous situation? Or is the report from the inspectors lost away somewhere within the ministry? For it is highly unlikely that the minister would treat such a dangerous situation so lightly as to defer it due to lack of budgetary allocation.
My child recently relayed an incident to me which further magnified the need for this matter to be publicized in the hope that it forces the ministry to act with greater urgency. A child’s pen fell onto the roof below the rails. Since it was exam time the child tried to retrieve the pen. He did so by maneuvering through one of the gaps between the rails while using a fellow student and another rail as anchors. The anchor rail came loose and, were it not for the other child holding him, that kid may have fallen off the corridor and suffered severe injuries or even death. Had there been sturdy rails, the child would never have attempted that stunt.
The HM had best intentions when she asked us to advise our children of the dangers. However, teenagers do not easily listen to advice and oftentimes become daredevils in the hope of impressing their peers. When they leave our homes they become the responsibility of the school and the Ministry of Education. Parents can only do so much. After that we depend on the system to keep our precious jewels safe during school hours.
Sadly, the present situation at Bishops’ High School leaves it nowhere near the minimum accepted safety standards. Should we wait until something tragic happens? Or should we use whatever means necessary to rectify this problem? I am certain most parents would much prefer the latter choice. As such, I hope someone of relevance would read this letter and act with the urgency this situation deserves. Over 500 of our youths are depending on this.
(Name and address supplied)