Fires occurring at schools are of major concern to the Education Ministry.
This was stressed today by Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, following a walk-through of new pre-fabricated buildings east of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, Wildey, St. Michael.
Speaking against the backdrop of two fires in less than a month, Mr. Jones said: "The sequence is interesting. I am not saying that you don’t have fires…but the disruption for schools is quite high.?? We had Government Hill Nursery [School] and that facility is not yet back into operation and we have to use an alternative site while they try to bring that one back up to scratch…"
Noting that this weekend saw the burning of a pre-fabricated building at The St. Michael School, he said the Ministry was hoping that at least by Wednesday, January 16, the students would be back at school. This is the same date that children at the Government Hill Nursery school are expected to move to the St. Barnabas Church, St. Michael, following a fire to that school’s storeroom on Saturday, December 29.
While Mr. Jones noted that the Royal Barbados Police Force and the Barbados Fire Service were investigating both circumstances, he said: "But it is of some concern that in such a small space of time we would have had two of our facilities affected by fire…Not until one hears from the relevant authorities then you can’t speak as to the cause, whether it is electrical, if it is some other combustible object or substance that was used.. I don’t know, so we will [wait until we] hear from them."
As he recalled another incident of a fire years ago, the Education Minister called for "vigilance right around our schools". He said: "If you remember some years ago the school at St. Stephen’s [Black Rock, St. Michael] was affected two or three times. Then one found out that there was some culprit involving pyrotechnic acts. Now, one hopes that that is not happening all over again."
Lamenting the cost incurred by Government to repair schools damaged by fire. Mr. Jones, a former teacher himself said: "There is a cost always to replace structures when they are burnt or damaged. And, to do a prefab unit… you could be running like $140,000 and then when you have to clean-up and remove the debris all of that adds to the cost that the school, and by extension, the Government would have to face.
??"So, we are concerned and it is something to be monitored. One would expect that the security at our schools would maintain vigilance at a higher level. [And] that they would be able to in their normal patrol detect the first spark of anything and report it immediately to the Barbados Fire Service who should respond as they do with some alacrity to contain what ever fire there is."