However, despite their calls for a remedy to be found, the problem has continued and on Monday 19th November, faculty members took stronger actions to bring greater focus on the issue.
In a release issued Monday afternoon, the teachers of the Basseterre High School recorded what they characterized as their “extreme distress, frustration and disgust with the apparent inaction, neglect, disregard and painfully slow reaction to the worrisome situation regarding the Science labs at the school.”
After an entire year of numerous verbal and written reports from the School’s Management to the Ministry of Education, and also meetings with staff by the Ministry, to date no meaningful action has been taken, said the release.
Though there has not been any final determination of what is causing the problem, the staff is of the opinion that the situation of possible Chemical Contamination is endangering their health and that of the student populace of the school.
They explain that within the last year, an increase number of teachers and students have been diagnosed with illnesses associated to the environmental conditions that exist in the school. Teachers and students have reported many symptoms such as: face and eye burning sensation, itchy throat and skin, upper respiratory issues, skin dis-colouration and abrasions, vertigo/dizziness etc. and some have even been hospitalized due to associated illnesses.
In an effort to protect themselves from the dangers of this seemingly air borne contamination, teachers and students have been wearing face masks and gloves to school. However, this weak attempt to protect themselves has been pointless, as their ‘protective’ gloves have changed colour almost instantly and the same symptoms are being experienced.
The B.H.S Staff in collaboration with the St. Kitts Teachers’ Union have taken a decision to act in the best interest of their own welfare and that of the students they serve. In a joint meeting with the staff and the National Executive of the St. Kitts Teachers’ Union the following resolutions have been adopted and will take effect immediately:
1. Teachers will NOT report to classes as of today Monday 18th November, but will be engaged in a Sit Out as a demonstration against the current situation. Parents are therefore advised to take the necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of their children.
2. The union will seek to meet with the Minister of Education to address the concerns of the teachers. Also, the union will forward new recommendations for effectively addressing the current crisis that will provide for the continued education of our students and the safety of our teachers.
3. The union calls on the Ministry of Education to immediately implement the recommendations of the evaluation report by Dr. Milton C. Whittaker.
4. The union calls on the Ministry of Education to close the compound of the Basseterre High School immediately, until investigations are completed and the health and safety of our teachers and students are assured.
The St. Kitts Teachers’ Union hereby issues a clear call to other stakeholders within the Education Sector and non-Education sector to support the efforts and action of our teachers at the Basseterre High School and take a STAND for teachers in this very difficult and trying time! The union calls for urgent corrective and proactive action at the Basseterre High School. Our teachers need the support of the public! Let your voices be heard and join us in advocating for real and meaningful action, NOW!
The teachers have therefore declared the campus of the school a “Contaminated Zone”. The Basseterre High School is the largest high school in St. Kitts and Nevis.