Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary and Secretary of Education Kelvin Charles has denied claims by TTUTA’s Tobago officer Orlando Kerr that the Education Division has not been addressing issues at schools on the island.
On Monday, led by Kerr, teachers at the Mason Hall Secondary School protested outside the school calling on the division and Charles to address major problems there.
Kerr said the protest is one of the first steps the union will take to make Tobagonians aware of some of the longstanding issues faced by the island’s teachers and students.
He said the main issue the Mason Hall teachers were upset about is the science labs, which have been non-functional for more than two years. Kerr said the division had said the labs would be fixed and ready for September.
However, speaking during a morning talk show programme earlier this week, Charles denied the claims.
He said, “The truth be told, we tackle all the issues. Some people may feel it’s taking a little time, and sometimes, of course, it does take time.
“We engaged CARIRI (Caribbean Industrial Research Institute), who would have gone and done some work. They’ve made some recommendations, they are to come back. Of course, only recently we would have met and approved the costing to have CARIRI come back.
"There is a procurement issue in terms of two items. That takes time so we would have had to do a request for proposals, and now those proposals are in, they would be re-evaluated.”
On there being no chairs for students, which resulted in an entire year group at Signal Hill Secondary having to stay away from school, Charles said: “The bigger picture – we always have to bear in mind what the bigger picture is. The truth...is that we cannot continue in a situation where every year we have to purchase a number of desks and chairs because they are been destroyed.
"Children have to learn about care and maintenance, they have to learn to value these assets."
He questioned: “What kinds of systems exist in the schools generally that will allow for deterioration, to the extent that at the start of a new term you need to replace all of these desks and chairs? That’s a fundamental question.”