The Parent-Teacher Association of the Hope West Primary School at Enmore, East Coast Demerara, yesterday forced a halt to activities at the institution to protest glaring sanitation issues and other matters relating to the conduct of some of the teachers.
Several classes had to be cancelled as parents kept the children away to join them in a protest outside the school compound.
The move stemmed from a PTA meeting on Wednesday. One of the main issues was the deplorable state of the latrines.
The parents are demanding that the Ministry of Education replace the existing latrines with flush toilets.
“The teachers’ own are okay but when it comes to the children the Ministry has to do something,” one parent told this newspaper.
Kaieteur News observed several filthy latrine booths with faeces splattered on the floor. There was also the unbearable stench.
Both teachers and students have been forced to endure the stench of urine from all over the compound as the children have reverted to easing themselves in the most convenient corners of the compound rather than endure the filthy latrines.
“This is 2009 and our children still have to use pit latrines. This is not the bush where you don’t have water. This is the coast and we have to operate in this primitive state,” said a member of the PTA who sought anonymity for fear of victimisation of his child by the school’s administration.
Nandranie, a parent of two sons at the school, said that so strong is the stench that emanates from the latrines and the school compound that it remains on the children when they leave the environment.
“You see when they come home from school in the afternoons their skin actually smell like the toilets. We need better toilets,” the woman said.
She added that the PTA had made several complaints but nothing is being done. “The children are accustomed to using flush toilets at home, so when they are presented with latrines in school they are reluctant to use them,” Nandranie explained.
Even some teachers who spoke to this newspaper indicated that should they want to relieve themselves, they usually call a taxi to take them home and then return to school.
Of course this shortens the amount of time they spend with their students. Last week there was a report of physical abuse of a student by a teacher at the school. This is being investigated by both the Ministry of Education and the police.
One parent, Yvonne Ranjayah, who has nieces and nephews attending the Hope West Primary School, said that she is disturbed at the attitude of some teachers.
She explained that on most occasions the teachers arrive late and there is no penalty for this transgression.
She however lamented that should the children reach five minutes late they are locked out of the compound.
Her observation was supported by one of the students who told this newspaper that teachers are very often absent from school, since they place priority on attending classes at the University of Guyana and the Cyril Potter College of Education.
Another observation by the parents is the attire worn by some of the teachers, which they claim leaves much to be desired.
The parents also lamented the lack of adequate blackboards at the school, adding that sometimes teachers get into conflict with each other over the use of a blackboard.
“These things are not good for our children to see in a school,” Ranjayah said.
Another parent spoke of teachers putting children out of their classes if they don’t agree to attend their extra lessons in the afternoon.
They are calling on either Ministers Sheik Baksh or Desiree Fox to visit the school so that monies allocated in this year’s budget will facilitate better sanitary conditions for the institution’s 1060 students.
A press release from the office of the Regional Democratic Council, Region Four which was signed by the Regional Education Officer, Rajiv Bisnauth, stated that the sanitation problem would be corrected immediately.
The release noted that following the protest action, prompt intervention by the Regional Executive Officer, the Regional Engineer and the Senior Superintendent of Works has confirmed that rehabilitation of the existing sanitary blocks will commence immediately and an additional one for teachers will also be constructed.
“The visit to the school by regional officials has brought some relief for the fuming parents since most of their problems were addressed,” the press release stated.
The Regional Education Officer further stated that the administration is encouraging stakeholders to be more vigilant and pro-active so as to bring about changes within the region.
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