Antonia Tekah De Freitas
By Sue-Ann Wayow
SINCE the closure of schools across the country in March 2020, the Ministry of Education has spent over $85million in school repairs.
A press release by the Ministry of Education on Thursday stated that the works overseen by the Education Facilities Planning and Procurement Division (EFPPD) in collaboration with National Maintenance Training and Security Company Limited (MTS) were conducted at approximately 354 projects at an estimated cost of $85,117,000 and presently work was being done on over 100 projects.
The ministry stated that the repairs and outfitting which took place across Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Centres, primary, secondary and special schools included installation of sinks, sewer system works, roof repairs, plumbing, tiling, electrical works and general infrastructural repairs to interior and exterior parts of buildings.
And as schools get prepared to have the physical intake for pupils writing the various exams, the ministry stated that emergencies may arise since buildings have been out of use for almost nine months.
The ministry stated, “For this reason, MTS is on high alert to deal with all contingencies. The repair of schools across Trinidad and Tobago is a continuous process as many of these buildings have been constructed over 50 years ago. To this end, the Ministry engages in upkeep, monitoring and restoration as necessary.”
The Ministry of Education added that all persons entering school compounds will be doing so in an environment that was in keeping with best practice of health and safety protocols.
However, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Antonia De Freitas said TTUTA was not aware of major infrastructural work being done and expressed concerns that schools will not be ready for a February re-opening.
TTUTA is especially concerned if any repair work was done to laboratories and craft workshops in secondary schools as pupils will be needing to use those spaces for their examinations.
She told AZPNews.com, “Many of these schools needed repairs even before March 2020. We are not sure if these repairs were properly addressed because there are many pre-existing conditions.
“Also, many more schools more than 300 still need to be repaired. Our particular concern for the secondary schools is the labs and craft workshops because many of them again would have needed repairs before Covid-19. We are not sure what measures are being put in place in terms of repairs, sanitisation and is it really safe for our students to be working in.”
The TTUTA president said although in the last budget, Education got the largest allocation, the union was yet to see a breakdown of the allocation for the different areas and schools have not yet received its annual funding from the ministry.
She said principals have had to dip into their own pockets to offset expenditure for sanitation in some schools.
And De Freitas said TTUTA was hoping that the Ministry of Education will meet with the union soon to discuss issues before the opening of school next month.