The TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), parents and teachers are calling on the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to get rid of biting insects at Barataria North Secondary School.
TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas told Newsday on Wednesday she supports any action taken by teachers at the school. "It's not a matter of teachers calling on teachers to stay home. Under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, every worker has a right to refuse to work if they believe the situation is unhealthy or unsafe. Given the fact that teachers and students have been affected repeatedly at that school, the teachers can make a decision to refuse to work on any particular day they arrive because the situation is unbearable."
She said TTUTA has evidence that the problem is ongoing.
"Wherever the insect is, it is embedded somewhere on the compound. We need to have professional services brought in to eliminate the problem."
De Freitas is waiting for the authorities to intervene to determine what is biting students and staff.
Senior school staff could not be reached for comment.
One parent told Newsday, the issue is affecting classes and the authorities are ignoring reports from the school. She is calling on Education Minister Anthony Garcia and Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh to intervene.
"We don't know what insect is biting our children. My son has been going to school and some teachers have not been going to their classes. This is a potential health hazard, because these insects can get into bags, books and and then they come home with that. Let's control it now."
She told Newsday her child has not been bitten, but he is being affected by the class disruptions. She recommended the ministry close the school until the problem is resolved.
She said the problem surfaced on January 14, and since then the principal decided to dismiss classes early on several occasions.
"The school isn't being closed down, it is being dismissed – as early as 8.30 am.
"As a parent I would like to know why is the school open if we are having an insect problem?
"We were told health inspectors went to spray the school twice, but the situation continues to persist."
When Newsday asked Deyalsingh about the issue via text, he suggested contacting the Ministry of Education.
Garcia said his ministry had been doing everything it can to resolve the issue, but the insect vector control unit was unable to identify what insects are biting the students and staff.
"We have been doing all we can, because we sprayed the school up to last week.
I did some investigation, and yes teachers are complaining about infestation of fleas. At this point we cannot identity the cause of it, but the school is not closed."
He said an OSH representative visited the school on Wednesday and a report will be presented to the principal, school supervisor and the ministry soon.