Tim, Harris make peace
By SASHA HARRINANAN Friday, June 15 2012
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A CLASSROOM IS BORN: Teachers of the Pt Cumana RC school, put the finishing touches on a temporary class inside the St Peter's RC Church in Carenage y...
EDUCATION Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Archbishop of Port-of-Spain Joseph Harris warmly embraced each other after a 90 minute meeting yesterday morning at Archbishop’s House in Port-of-Spain to discuss the contentious Pt Cumana RC/Pt Cumana Government schools merger.
The embrace was clearly a sign of peace between both men and by extension the Government and the Catholic Church, after Fr Harris on Tuesday rejected outright Gopeesingh’s plant to merge RC students with Government students under one principal at the Government school.
Facing reporters outside Archbishop’s House yesterday, Gopeesingh said he had given the Archbishop the assurance the Pt Cumana RC School is here to stay and that the existing derelict school would either be repaired or torn down and a new school erected on the same site bearing in mind constraints of land size.
This news brought smiles to the faces of teachers who yesterday were at the St Peter’s RC Church in Carenage where they were busy transforming sections of the church and the adjacent parish hall into classrooms. Until the Ministry either renovates or rebuilds the school, permission was granted for classes to be held on the church’s compound for the rest of this school term. Reading from a prepared statement, after the talks, Gopeesingh said, “the meeting was very cordial and focussed. The Ministry wishes to emphasise that it is not de-establishing the existing Pt Cumana RC Primary School.”
Gopeesingh turned to the Archbishop and said, “I thank His Grace for sharing his concerns. I think there were some real misunderstandings before this meeting.” For his part, Fr Harris said, “I think the meeting went extremely well. We have come to a good conclusion. I think the misunderstandings have been cleared up. I thank the Minister for that.”
A decision still has to be made on where the RC staff and students will be housed come September when the final school term for this year, commences. Gopeesingh and the Archbishop stated that if they end up having to return to the Government school’s compound, there would be no merger of faculty, staff and students. Instead, the ministry and the Catholic Education Board of Management would follow the existing format as evidenced by 11 other co-sharing arrangements currently in place at other schools in Trinidad.
Gopeesingh listed some co-sharing schools as the Longdenville Presbyterian and Government Primary schools and the Valencia RC and Valencia Government primary schools.
At St Peter’s RC Church yesterday, a teacher said, “Im elated at the news, because we want to remain at Bellerand Street (the site of the RC school). The School has always been there, we are comfortable with that location and most of the children come from right around the area.”
“Our students may be split into two groups but we’re comfortable with our temporary classrooms. Now that we know what’s happening for the remainder of the term, about three weeks, I just want to get back to teaching,” the teacher said.
The RC School was ordered closed on May 23, after it was declared structurally unsound by officials from the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL). A solution appeared to have been found when RC students were told they would share the Pt Cumana Government Primary School and on Monday, the co-sharing began. However, a myriad of problems later led to a meeting being arranged on Monday evening with Minister Gopeesingh, parents, students, members of the Catholic Education Board and MP for the area Dr Keith Rowley.
The idea of a merger was strongly rejected by Fr Harris and parents of the RC students, with the Archbishop even warning of a legal response if the merger went ahead.