Pigeons shouldn't be able to take over an entire school, but at Edinburgh Government Primary School that seems to be exactly the case at the institution. A wholly inadequate response to an infestation by the wild birds resulted in a teacher collapsing at the school last Wednesday. That chilling event followed weeks of teachers and students having issues that they blame on the persistent pigeons.
Students have also complained of rashes, itching, nausea and dizziness since the school reopened in September and it was discovered that pigeons had found comfortable homes in the school’s ceilings.
When it gets to the point that children are vomiting because of pests, the Ministry of Education should have been prompted to take a more aggressive approach to the situation. Pigeons can carry up to 60 different diseases including cryptococcosis, a disease affecting breathing, salmonellosis, associated with food poisoning, and histoplasmosis, a potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by a fungus that grows in bird droppings. The birds themselves can act as carriers for a range of parasites including bed bugs and chicken mites, which in turn can carry their own hostile bacteria.
Sanitation workers have been dealing with the pigeon droppings by sweeping up with brooms and wiping down soiled bannisters, but what's needed is a comprehensive programme to remove the points of attraction for the birds, making roosting areas inaccessible or unattractive and ensuring that the loose food that attracts them is more carefully managed.
The Educational Facilities Planning and Procurement Division (EFPPD) of the ministry was established to control all its asset-management activities, inclusive of maintenance and repair management across its eight education districts.
It is not clear whether the EFPPD includes pest control within its specific capabilities or if it subcontracts this service as needed when incidents like the one which plague Edinburgh Primary arise. It is quite clear that the problem with pigeons at the school has been continuing for weeks with no significant response from the maintenance unit.
Many schools that fall under the purview of the EFPPD are not in the middle of towns or cities and do not benefit from the work of the cleaning crews that manage waste and vermin in these densely occupied locations. Edinburgh Primary is in the middle of a large-scale housing development, surrounded by dozens of private homes and a nearby HDC development.
There are ample opportunities for roosting and feeding in the surrounding environment, so this may not only be a school problem but a wider community issue.
The situation at the school demands a proper and professional evaluation and immediate remedy to ensure the safety of students and teachers.