Classes at the St Andrew's Anglican School in Scarborough were interrupted on the first day of the new term on Monday when teachers threatened to walk off the job because of heavy dust on the second floor.
Tobago officer of the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Orlando Kerr told Newsday the teachers complained that the dust was unbearable and they were concerned about the safety of the students.He said even though cleaners at the school tried to tidy the area, dust remained an issue.Education Secretary Kelvin Charles, who was not aware of the issue when contacted by Newsday on Monday, was not impressed with the threat by teachers to leave classes and wondered whether the issue could have been handled internally.
He said, “As far as I am concerned there were no challenges as all schools were reopened on time. This is according to the preliminary report."
Charles added, “Let’s be honest, where does accountability begin and lie? We have to treat with those issues. Principals should have been out since last week. I don’t have the information first hand and they (teachers) are going to walk out because of dust; when we have cleaners there who are being paid and there is a principal.”
The contractor assigned to the school, ODM Holdings Ltd, seemed confused that the teachers had dust issues on the first day. Company owner Demi-John Cruikshank said, “Up to Sunday we were there with the principal, some teachers, the Education Division and the school supervisor.
"There were no issues. We even went beyond the scope of works to do extra work on the school. So I’m confused now.”
Kerr believes the problem could have been avoided if TTUTA was permitted to be more involved.
He said, “Normally we (TTUTA) would go into the schools before they reopen to ensure the works are done properly and the school is safe for both teachers and students.”He said for the last two years the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy had refused to give a copy of the scope of works for the July-August school repair programme to TTUTA. If this was done, Kerr said, minor issues such as these would not have interrupted the first day of the new term.
He accused the division of purposely excluding TTUTA Tobago.
“It's not best practice for the division to go ahead and do what they must without consulting with TTUTA.
"If we had gotten the scope of works then we would have seen where the contractors went wrong. That area should have been cleaned before, we would have been able to identify shortcomings, not at the beginning of the term."
Repairs on all schools in Tobago began during the second week in August and were completed on Sunday.
In an Executive Council post-media briefing last month, Charles said 86 packages were distributed to 38 Tobago contractors for renovation work.Newsday was told the St Andrew's Anglican teachers decided to stay at the school and cleaners were working to fix the issue.