Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, said she was satisfied that many of the contractors hired to repair schools under the Domestic Summer Programme have been able to get the institutions ready on time.
However, she disclosed that the programme had encounter some challenges, primarily with the provision of adequate scope-of-works, a task under the remit of the Education Technical Management Unit. She warned that going forward “there will be some very drastic changes” within the Unit, which is responsible for the maintenance of nursery and primary schools across the island.
Minister Bradshaw was speaking to the media at the St. Joseph Primary School, the last stop of a tour with ministry officials to inspect work at Erdiston Special School, Erdiston Nursery School, Government Hill Nursery and Eden Lodge Primary.
“I am not really pleased in relation to the [Education Technical Management] Unit. We have had some major challenges with the department and the building maintenance officers as it relates to providing proper scope of works to be able to allow contractors to know precisely what they are supposed to do, and that is something that going forward we are going to have to rectify as a matter of urgency. It cannot be that people have been visiting schools; problems have been identified, and then repeatedly we find ourselves in a situation, where as the school reopens, we then start to hear there are all of these issues, that obviously the Ministry, or certainly me as Minister, were not aware of,” Ms. Bradshaw stressed.
The Minister said a number of consultants were engaged to oversee the projects because of the internal challenges within the Unit. She added that she had also met with principals at some of the institutions with concerns and noted that they discussed an approach to completing works in the short, medium and long term.
She outlined that many of the schools had plumbing issues, which included broken toilets, fittings, fixtures and sinks, along with the general wear and tear that one would expect in a school with young children.
“There is a general acceptance that there has been a lot of neglect of school plants over the course of the last few years, and therefore, there is no waving of a wand that is simply going to be able to fix all school plants, even in a COVID-19 environment,” she stated.
Under the Domestic Summer Programme, repairs have been done on 31 schools, which were chosen based on environmental issues, complaints and other major challenges.
“We want to try to make sure that this transition back into school is as seamless as possible, and that requires the cooperation of all parties. Fortunately, all the stakeholders have really understood that it is our first priority to get children back into school and then we can work through a number of the teething issues that obviously have plagued the system for some time. But generally, I think we have been able to accomplished most of what we have set out to do,” Ms. Bradshaw said.