With the Ministry of Education receiving $7.29 billion, the largest chunk of the $50.5 billion budget, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), Lynsley Doodhai is advising Education Minister Anthony Garcia to set aside a portion of that money to end shift system and the discomfort of suffering students and teachers.
He made the comment in light of a fire which ravaged one of three buildings that make up the Siparia Union Presbyterian School, one day after Finance Minister Colm Imbert delivered his Government’s third budget.
The building houses three standard five classes.
A ministry official said they were awaiting a report from the Fire Services, which returned to the compound yesterday, to determine the extent of the damage before any decision could be taken to accommodate them in the same compound or relocate them to another building.
Doodhai said the fact that education received the largest allocation is of little comfort to TTUTA, pointing out that in the past two to three budgets, Education was always among the top recipients.
“My hope is that in the coming fiscal year, the ministry allocate sufficient funds to repair schools. That monies be identified to complete schools that are in various stages of completion, due to the non-payment of contractors.
“In this way, the suffering by teachers and students who are either operating on a shift system with another school, are housed in a community centre, a temple or church, that these arrangements come to an end so teachers and students can enjoy a relatively comfortable environment.”
He said construction of the Siparia Union Presbyterian School, which is being done in three phases, was stopped due to the non-payment of contractors.
He said the first phase was 95 per cent completed and called on Garcia, a former TTUTA president, to restart the project.
Initial reports indicate that the fire may have been electrical in nature as prior to the blaze, which occurred after school was dismissed around 3.10 pm on Tuesday, the lights were flickering.
Doodhai confirmed that, in the past, the school had been experiencing day to day challenges, including electrical problems, which resulted in the closure of classes for several weeks last year.
He said the latest incident brought the integrity of the buildings into question and a proper assessment should be done to make sure the safety of occupants of the other two buildings were not compromised.