Sep 22, 2010 News
Pandemonium broke out at the North Ruimveldt Multilateral School around 09:30 hours yesterday, after staff and students began feeling unwell, the result of a nauseating odour which permeated the atmosphere.
In an invited comment, South Georgetown District schools’ union representative and GTU Branch Chairman, Kerwin Mars, told media operatives that the school was fumigated by Vector Control Officers from the Ministry of Health. The school, according to reports, was fumigated around 15:15 hours Monday to address a persistent rodent problem. But according to Mars, since the school is not properly ventilated the chemical had remained in the environment, thereby affecting both teachers and students when classes commenced yesterday.
In recognition of the state of affairs, officials from the Ministry of Education were alerted, according to Mars, who further revealed that the officials upon arrival had declined to enter the building to assess the problem.
It was reported that the Division Education Officer had arrived in the company of a few officers but opted to leave without offering any assistance or explanation.
“They came and we told them about the chemical odour in the building and they just ignored us and went away.” Amidst cries that the building is unsafe to resume classes, the Ministry of Education is still ordering the return of normal school sessions, teachers insisted yesterday. “The Education Ministry cannot say if it’s safe to resume classes; only the public health ministry can give advice in that capacity,” the teachers protested. The building is said to school some 300 students and over 30 staff members.
Meanwhile, the Ministry in a statement issued last evening said that Permanent Secretary Mr. Pulandar Kandhi became aware of the situation around 10:30 hours yesterday. According to the statement, the matter was brought to the attention of Mr. Kandhi by the President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union President Mr Colin Bynoe.
“The Permanent Secretary was at the time attending the Parent Symposium at the Guyana International Convention Centre. The GTU President had informed Mr. Kandhi that he had asked unionized teachers at the school to down tools since a cleaner at the institution was affected by toxic fumes from the spraying exercise, the statement added.
A decision was subsequently made by the Principal Education Officer (Georgetown) Mr. Marcel Hutson to suspend classes for the day at around 11:45 hours in the interest of the children, it was further outlined.
According to the statement, the Ministry had since engaged a contractor to undertake a termite treatment exercise at the school which was conducted over the weekend. However, the ministry was informed that the school’s Headteacher, Mrs. Dianne Peters had requested that the contractor conduct internal spraying of cupboards on Monday after school had been dismissed.
“It is against the Ministry of Education policy to conduct these exercises during normal school days,” the statement pointedly highlighted.
It was revealed that Mr. Hutson, the contractor and two environmental officers from the Ministry of Health had yesterday visited the school at around 14:00 hours and did not detect anything to cause undue concern in terms of the air quality in the building or the surrounding environment.
Further, staff employed by the contractor cleaned the surfaces of the cupboards and the walls of the building that presumably came into contact with chemicals during the spraying exercise.
At 14:15 hours, the GTU President informed Mr. Kandhi via telephone that “everything was resolved at North Ruimveldt Multilateral,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education was made to understand that the cleaner who claims to have been affected by the spraying exercise was admitted to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.
The Ministry of Education said it will be monitoring the situation and conducting further investigations into the matter.
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