The teachers and students of the Dr Roodal Moonilal Ramai Trace Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Hindu Primary School, Debe are hoping to be able to occupy their new school before the end of the term.
"We are hoping to be back in school for Christmas. If we have to keep a treat for the children, it is impossible to have it because we are in the temple. It is very unfortunate for our children at this moment," PTA president Indar Jairaj told Sunday Newsday.
A few days ago Sunday Newsday visited the site and there was work going on, and the school appeared to be near completion.
Even the carpark was marked out, and cameras appeared to have been installed. The school, formerly Ramai Trace SDMS Primary School, at Congo Village, was established in September 1964.
The students have been attending classes at the Hanuman Milan Mandir, Penal Rock Road, which is about 45 minutes away from the new school while the new school is being built.Parents and teachers insist that the temple is ill-suited for day-long classes, and over the years, there have been several protests and demonstrations for the school to be completed.
There were even parliamentary enquires into why the project was taking so long to be completed.
Jairaj said because of the delays in completing the building, the school's population had shrunk by half over the years, with a population of just over 130 students.
"We had a population of 270-plus students. We are losing students," Jairaj said.
"We are not sure if we will get new furniture, but what we have is old and damaged. Before moving to the temple, we stayed a few months in Monkey Town (primary school). However, the sewer did not cater to the combined population. There were also infrastructural problems."
He said under the current circumstances, every term parents and students are faced with challenges, especially in the first two weeks when they usually experience transportation problems because some drivers would not yet have received their payments from the ministry. Despite their challenges, Jairaj said the school continues to excel."We have data to show that the school does well. We just do not have a building to call a school so we can continue doing better and better, like the other schools. Our standards have not dropped."He said children living near the new school, like Lallbeharry Trace and Mahadeo Trace, are waiting to re-enroll in the school when it becomes available.Councillor for the area, Nicholas Kanhai, said the inconvenience experienced by these families over the last eight years has been huge in terms of disruption to family life."Children had to get up earlier than normal. They had to cut leisure time with friends and family. The school is not just an educational institution," Kanhai said."It is a hub for community activity, and in the absence of the school in the community over the last eight years, it has really brought the community to a standstill."And like the parents, students, and staffers, he is "quite excited.""We are anticipating the opening of the school, and the coming days and Ramai Trace will continue to be that beacon of light in our community," Kanhai said.In 2013, under the People's Partnership administration, it was renamed in honour of the Oropouche East MP by then SDMS general secretary, the late Satnarayn Maharaj. Months later, the dilapidated structure was demolished and construction of the new school began.
By 2015, it was 95 per cent complete, but work came to a halt at the end of that year.
After the September 7, 2015 general election which saw a change of administration, the PP was accused by the PNM government of awarding contracts for construction work on more than 100 schools without having a suitable source of finance. The Ramai Trace school was one of the projects the PNM administration had said it was unable to complete then due to budget concerns.
On November 1, Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly announced in Parliament that the school would be completed by the end of this month. But Moonilal is not convinced of this.
"Every year for eight years, they have promised to open the school, and they have not. I will believe it when I see it," Moonilal said.
"The children and their parents have endured enormous struggles and tribulations, having to travel early in the morning on buses eight miles away to the temple grounds, which has its own restrictions and so on."Moonilal accused the PNM of leaving the structure to run down and "go in a state of dilapidation," as the incomplete facility had been overrun with bush and there were animals grazing on the compound.
He said parents have always been very optimistic and diligent despite disappointment year after year.
"We look forward to seeing whether the minister's promise of opening the school by December will be realised. I don't know if that's because the school was renamed after me that the Government has been so malicious and spiteful against the people," Moonilal said.
Sunday Newsday requested an update on the project from Gadsby-Dolly via WhatsApp, but there was no response up to press time.