PRINCIPALS and staff at many primary and secondary schools had to dig into their pockets on Wednesday morning to feed thousands of students.
Otherwise, the children would have gone hungry, as the National Schools Dietary Services Ltd (NSDSL) was suspended for the day.
Teachers said children arrived at school on Wednesday expecting breakfast before the start of the school day and lunch later on.
With no school meals available, teachers ended up buying food for them.
One teacher told the Newsday, “Since yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon NSDSL informed caterers that no meals would be supplied today.
"However, principals were not informed of this by the Ministry of Education (MOE) until late this morning (Wednesday).
“So the many children who came to school with the expectation of receiving their breakfast and lunch will not be able to do so.
"Principals and teachers are now left in an untenable position. The incompetence of the MOE is never-ending and never ceases to amaze me.”
Messages from a teachers' What’sApp group to which over 3,000 teachers belong were shared with the Newsday.
One teacher wrote, “Teachers are dipping into their 2013 pockets to buy bread and butter or cheese and tuna at 2022 prices to make sandwiches to feed hungry students.”
This message received several responses from other teachers, who replied with, “Same here. Most students are without.”
“Correct and it’s a dam(n) shame we keep propping MOE (Ministry of Education) faults for the sake of children...”
“Teachers are lifesavers.”
“To top it off….My school doesn’t have a cafeteria,”
“Minister should do some photo ops with hops.”
“In our school some teachers, out of the kindness of their hearts, are providing meals. Administration is also ensuring that all students get a meal with little to no funds available to them.”
All schools were ordered to stay closed on Tuesday because of the potential tropical storm heading towards Trinidad and Tobago. Anticipating the storm would last until Wednesday and schools would stay closed, the NSDSL had told caterers not to supply meals on Wednesday.
The storm warning was subsequently discontinued on Tuesday night and schools reopened, but the memo that caterers would not be able to provide meals reached schools very late.
Newsday spoke to NSDSL CEO Stacey Barran, who said she was not authorised to speak to the media, and referred us to the MOE.
An official of the MOE, who wished not to be named, explained no one could have predicted that the storm would move away from TT, allowing schools (in Trinidad, but not Tobago) to reopen on Wednesday morning.
He said because of the unpredictability of the situation, caterers would have been told to stop work on Wednesday to avoid wastage. He said the timing of the lifting of the storm warning around 11 pm on Tuesday, allowed very little elbow room to notify schools no meals would be served on Wednesday.
Newsday understands caterers had to be paid for roti which was prepared for Tuesday but had to be dumped, as the instruction to close schools that day came close to midnight on Monday.
One caterer said they had expected schools also to be closed on Wednesday. The caterer explained food preparation is usually done the day before, but because all government offices were closed around noon on Tuesday, their workers were also sent home, so no advance preparation was done.
Reached for comment, president of the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Antonia De Freitas said she had no official communication on the matter, as she went from head office to all schools across the district on Wednesday.