In a statement read in the National Assembly on Wednesday (21st November, 2012), by Education Minister, Mr. Nigel Carty, it was revealed that the matter was drawn to the Ministry’s attention that some concerns connected with the possible or suspected dysfunction of the labs, their drainage system, the spillage of chemicals, or the existence of radioactive materials within the lab or the school, had been generated among staff and students at the school. Carty said reports have been made of persons becoming ill and developing a variety of unusual symptoms.
The Education Minister explained that in his ministry’s meeting of 8th November, the ministry gave an undertaking to contract consultants from Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) out of Trinidad. “We had hoped that the consultants would have been in country by last weekend (i.e one week later). However, the Chief Education Officer, (Clarice Cotton), particularly, in concluding her response to questions regarding the date of arrival suggested that it was better that we not put a hard date but commit to getting the consultants in as soon as possible since all things were not within her control.”
Though their delay was promised for earlier this week, Carty informed the parliament and the nation, via the radio/television broadcast, that the consultants are now on island, “as speak. We hope to have a report from CARIRI in some form very shortly.”
He said that his ministry understands that the SKTU has taken action as of Monday November 19 due to the failure of the consultants to have arrived by the last weekend. “This is wholly unfortunate since there was ongoing update of the Principal of the school who happens to be the General Secretary of the Union. As highlighted …, much in relation to addressing the concerns at the BHS depends on the outcome of the CARIRI report since previous reports have not moved us forward. It is hoped that the reports which may emerge would allay many of the concerns and engender confidence among stakeholders on whom we depend to help in the implementation of recommendations,” said the Minister.
Since the teachers at the school decided earlier this week to stage a “sit in” resulting in the disruption of classes, with little instructions taking place, the matter has begun to take a political turn, with the Education Minister viewing the actions with some suspicion.
Carty said, “A press release of November 19 by a political party, the People’s Action Movement (PAM), entitled “PAM LEADER OUTRAGED AT CONDITIONS AT HIGH SCHOOL. EXPRESSES SUPPORT OF TEACHERS STRIKE ACTION” with the following subtitle “Teachers to participate in historic March” only raises suspicions as to the motivation for the precipitous action taken at this time by the SKTU with the so-called historic march planned for this coming Thursday, tomorrow.”
Carty said it must be placed on record that the SKTU has at no time whatsoever, ever requested of his ministry, a meeting, a hearing, a forum of any kind to discuss the issues and a way forward. He said the SKTU has permanent representation on his ministry’s monthly planning committee and the general secretary attends those meetings. “The president and other executive members were present at the BHS meeting of November 8. They spoke and gave suggestions in their capacities as staff members, which were taken on board. The action the union has taken made known officially to the Ministry a day later. My response to the union’s letter requesting a meeting after the fact is in the mail.”
However, despite the minister’s claim about the non-request for a meeting, SKTU President, Bishop Ron Collins has contended that his organization has in fact requested such a dialogue but had not been granted an audience with the minister.
The Minister has expressed concern for the health of all and for the education of the students at the school. These continue to be the driving forces for our efforts despite the many setbacks, said Carty.
Four labs at the school have now been put out of commission. The science programme has been seriously compromised. “We are very sensitive to health and concerns of all, and to the hopes and dreams of our students – our boys and girls. We owe it to ourselves as a Ministry, as a government, as a school in the BHS and stakeholders to work together to resolve these difficult issues. Confidence, or the lack of it, it would appear, and genuine concern, have been at the centre of the intransigence. We must seek wholesome understanding among all to move the recuperatory process forward,” opined Carty.