So while thousands of primary and secondary students all across St. Kitts and Nevis were back out to school, for the start of the Second Term of the school year, those students from the Basseterre High School, BHS, were made to sit out at least for the rest of this week; but officially until advised otherwise.
This is all connected to the poor state of the science labs of the school, which are considered by the teachers and staff, to be a major health risk, because of certain problems that have been caused to teachers and students, from undisclosed chemical particles. Though a team of overseas experts were brought in late last year to conduct a study, teachers and parents of the students are not happy that the Ministry of Education seems unwilling to make the report from the experts, available for their direct review. Instead, the Minister of Education, Mr. Nigel Carty, in a meeting with parents last Friday, tried to assure the group that the experts have indicated that there are no life-threatening issues that should prevent the school campus from being put back into operation.
Minister Carty last year also accused certain elements of trying to politicize the issue, but members of the teacher Union, that represents the faculty in the matter, suggested otherwise; urging the minister to focus on the real problems and the potential health risks that could visit all occupants of the campus.
With the issue back in the spotlight and with no clear resolution on the horizon, the Leader of the People’s Action Movement Mr. Shawn Richards is now expressing his party’s full support for the parents and teachers.
Richards said the teachers raised concerns well over a year ago, about the conditions of the school labs and the immediate environment generally. Concerns stemmed from an increase in teachers and students complaints of various sicknesses’, repertory and otherwise, said the PAM leader.
According to earlier reports, the teachers and the school officials approached the Minister of Education, as well as the Minister of Health, regarding their concerns. The labs were subsequently closed by officials from the Ministry of Health. However students and teachers remained on campus and in close proximity to the abandoned labs to continue their educational activities.
A recent test of the labs and their environs was done by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI). A Report was presented to the government through the Minister of Education Nigel Carty. Carty reported to the teachers on the said report, but the teachers and parents are not satisfied and are demanding to see the report to have it analysed it for themselves. The PAM leader indicated that this is a clear indication that the parents and teachers have no confidence in Minister of Education Carty and by extension the government.
“This on-going situation between the parents and teachers at the Basseterre High School and the Minister of Education and the government, is a clear indication and a microcosm of the main issue and problem affecting our country today. And that is, NO CONFIDENCE. Our people have NO CONFIDENCE in the government. The teachers are demanding to see the report for themselves because they do not trust Minister Carty and the government and therefore they have NO CONFIDENCE in them,” said Richards
“Our government’s priorities seem to be totally out of whack with the priorities and needs of the people they serve. The deplorable condition and the lack of attention given to the labs at the BHS, by Minister Carty and the government is a glaring example of the government’s gross disregard for the real issues that are important and critical to our people’s development. My party and I join with the parents and teachers of the BHS in their demand to see the Air Quality report which was presented to government, as we have absolutely NO CONFIDENCE in what Minister Carty has relayed as being the contents of the report. The teachers and parents need to see for themselves and I support them fully. This is just one of the many issues that reflect our people’s growing lack of confidence in Dr Douglas and his government. And it is this lack of confidence that is crippling our country and in order to save our country, Dr Douglas must be removed, in order for us to RESTORE CONFIDENCE,” Richards stated.
Richards continued, “I will be leading a MARCH OF NO CONFIDENCE on Friday January 11th to highlight the people’s call for the Prime Minister to open the House and debate the NO CONFIDENCE motion that has been filed, so that we can RESTORE CONFIDENCE. CONFIDENCE in our country, confidence in our governance, confidence in the office of the Prime Minister. RESTORING CONFIDENCE is the number 1 priority at this point in our nation’s development and the only way to do that is for the Prime Minister to step down or be removed.”
“Let me further assure the parents and teachers of the BHS that any new government which I am a part of, will make addressing their concerns a number 1 priority, and ensuring a comfortable environment that is conducive to teaching and learning, “ Richards concluded.