Schools across Guyana are expected to re-open today, and both children and parents eagerly anticipate the beginning of a new school term.
But that’s not the case at One Mile, Wismar, Linden, where parents plan to stage a protest today over what they claim are life-threatening conditions at a new school that has been built there at the cost of some $170M.
A casual glance shows an imposing, freshly-painted structure, seemingly poised for its grand re-opening.
The new structure replaces the old One Mile Primary, which was gutted during the 2012 unrest over the possible increase of electricity tariffs.
The contract for the construction of the new School was signed on December 31 with P.D Contracting Services, and the project was expected to be completed by February 2015.
But now, six months after the due date, and with another school term beginning, everything is still not in place for a smooth transition.
There are complaints that at least two classrooms flood whenever there is a heavy downpour of rain.
There are also other complaints of structural and engineering defects. But what parents are most concerned about are the electrical wires that are dangling dangerously within hand-reach of children. The wires are located near to several outdoor taps, which flow into wash-basins containing stagnant water. In addition, some of the electrical panels are uncovered.
‘’We are going to lock the gates to this school and protest because what exists here is very dangerous. These wires are live and look where they are located: close to a water source. The relevant authorities have to look into this. We are not going to send our children to an environment where they are not safe,” one perturbed parent declared.
That sentiment was echoed by several others who adamantly stated that they will be protesting the re-opening of the school today. The parents also said that they will continue to protest until the necessary systems are put in place to ensure their children’s safety.
Region Ten Chairman Rennis Morian is also not satisfied with the present state of affairs at the multi- million dollar edifice.
He expressed concern about the dangling wires, and also condemned the attitude of a senior official from the previous administration, whom he said came into the Region and unceremoniously handed over the keys to the Head of the school.
The Regional Chairman said that he has had no official word about the opening of the school today.
“I am just hearing about these things by the way, and parents are calling me and expressing concern.
But I am not going to allow parents to send their children to a school where the environment is unsafe.
“This is children’s safety we’re talking about here, so how can you have electrical wires dangling and you hand over the school to the headmistress. This school is incomplete, and I will not allow its reopening until the necessary systems are put in place.”
Morian pointed out that the RDC has responsibility for the school, as it would be listed under its assets. As such, officials should have been present at its handing over to ensure that everything was up to standard.
“You can’t manage Linden from Georgetown. That is why we have a Regional Chairman.”
Morian described this action as an affront to Region Ten and ‘provocative’.
“This is a new dispensation and we are trying to do things in an orderly way, but these people thrive on disorder. And while we are striving for social cohesion in Region Ten and Guyana as a whole, there are still some people who are working contrary to that.
“I want this incident to be the last to happen because I don’t want to see parents and students in a picket line.”
Morian was at the time conducting an inspection of the school. He promised to conduct another today and said that should there be any issues as regard to safety regulations, he would not allow teachers, parents or students to access the facility.
The One Mile Primary was destroyed by arsonists on July 2012, following the month-long protest in Linden over increased electricity tariffs.
Over 800 students and teachers had to be housed at the Wismar Hill Primary and the Block 22 Multi-Purpose Hall.
The new building has 29 classrooms, capable of housing 1000 students, a sick bay, facilities for the disabled, an Information Communication Laboratory, administrative office and sanitary block.
Former Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon and a special committee had committed to rebuilding the school immediately after its destruction in 2012.
Funds and materials were subsequently obtained both locally and from the Diaspora to jump start the project and several volunteers commenced working on the site, which had to be later abandoned as the original foundation was deemed to be structurally unsound.
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