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Sunday 22 September 2019
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Parliament: Garcia in hot seat over school repairs

Anthony Garcia
Anthony Garcia

Work on the Fyzabad Anglican School will start after the chief design officer in the Ministry of Works and Transport completes a structural evaluation and recommendation report.

The report is expected to be handed over to the ministry by the end of this week.

Minister of Education Anthony Garcia was responding to a question in the House of Representatives on Monday from Fyzabad MP Lackram Bodoe.

Garcia said after a tour of the school by ministry officials, the school’s PTA and principal and other stakeholders in August, it was evident from the level of deterioration that an expert assessment was required.

Classes at the school have been disrupted since the beginning of the term. Teachers refused to walk through the unsafe building to get to other classrooms to which students have been relocated. Students, parents, and teachers fear that the building which housed nine form Three and Four classes could collapse. Classes have since been suspended.

Bodoe asked if the ministry intended to use Heritage Petroleum's vacant building, next to the school, as a temporary solution.

Garcia said, “It all depends on the report the ministry obtains from the chief design officer.”

If the report says the central block is unsuitable. "Then we will look at alternatives,” he said.

Rudranath Indarsingh, MP for Couva South, asked about daily disruptions at the Couva West Secondary School .

Garcia said the ministry is addressing a water shortage caused by low water pressure and several underground leaks due to poor design by the contractors. He said extensive plumbing repairs on four underground leaks were done during the July-August vacation and classes were expected to resume yesterday.

Indarsingh said another leak was found at the school yesterday.

Garcia said he was not surprised because of the poorly constructed underground water lines. He said the ministry is working towards rectifying the issue.

Indarsingh went on to accuse Garcia of “deceiving TT by saying all schools will be opened effective the beginning of this academic year.”

Garcia replied, “If you are honest you would realise we identified five schools we were having issues with.”

Asked about the ministry's plans to establish a cross-functional team to address issues at the Siparia West Secondary School, Garcia said a team was created and a report has been handed over.

In 2017 he expressed concern over the lack of supervision at the school. This came after reports of students involved in extorting money and bullying other students at the school.

The ministry appointed a team of officers from the school supervision and student support services.

Asked for an update on the operations of the team, Garcia said it was created last month and had assessed the school’s operations to identify the gaps.

He said, “The team developed an action plan to target support for leadership and governance for the school through coaching and mentoring principal and vice-principal, and management.”

The focus of the assessment is to address indiscipline, enhancement of classroom management, identify students at risk, behaviour management, and conflict resolution.

Garcia said the aim is to reduce incidents of indiscipline, promote positive school culture and increase student attendance and to enhance the delivery of the curriculum.

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