The main classroom block at St. George Secondary being painted in bright colours by workmen in April. (MRD/FP)

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mia Amor Mottley, has injected additional funds into the upgrade of school plants for this year’s Domestic Summer Programme – where schools are repaired over the summer vacation. 

Of particular concern are the conditions of the bathroom facilities at some of the island’s primary and secondary schools, which are in a state of disrepair. 

To this end, the Ministry of Finance has provided an additional $2 million towards a Toilet Replacement Programme, which will start this summer, and continue over time.

Ms. Mottley made the disclosure on Saturday, after chairing a meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre with Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw, as well as senior education and union officials, to discuss pertinent issues in the education sector, specifically violence and the Domestic Summer Programme for schools.

In addition to the Toilet Replacement Programme, government will spend a total of $11 million for the Domestic Summer Programme.

“We will add an additional amount to the primary schools’ summer programme so that the amount voted in the estimates of $3.5 million will now go to $5.5 million and roughly about $4.5 million will be spent on the summer programme and the rest will be spent for small repairs during the year.

“In the secondary school system, we have an amount of another $7 million. And then another $2 million for what we call the Toilet Replacement Programme. There have to be some things we have a zero tolerance to, physically as well, and not just the violence.  We have to have a zero tolerance to some of the bathroom facilities in public spaces that we require people to use,” Ms. Mottley emphasized.

Principal of the Milton Lynch Primary School, Everton Briggs, showing Chief Education Officer, Karen Best, and Suzanne Ward of the Ministry’s Education Technical Management Unit, the newly grouted boys’ bathroom at the school during a tour last month. (MRD/FP)

The Prime Minister noted that many schools were outfitted with household toilets which could not handle the commercial pressure of plants with 600 to 900 students.

This, she said, resulted in clogged toilets, and placed janitors in unfair working conditions.  The Toilet Replacement Programme will not only include swapping out of household toilets with those of industrial grade but the tiling and paving of bathrooms as well.

Additionally, secondary schools will also receive renovations to improve ventilation and natural lighting starting this summer. 

Ms. Mottley told education and union officials that some of the island’s schools were just too dark, and did not lend to an atmosphere of learning.  She added that the dark spaces created the perfect conditions for violence to occur.

Those schools with the traditional aluminium windows will also receive new windows that allow more light and ventilation into classrooms.

“These are the broad strategic interventions that we are going to take to help, both from the issue of violence, as well as the quality of the school plants that is impairing the ability for students to learn and for teachers to teach.

“Will we have perfection?  Probably not.  But what we will have is a focused approach to being able to reduce the level of violence, and to be able to improve the numbers seeking to learn within the school system,” she stated.

Ms. Mottley said the first schools to benefit from these specific upgrades, starting this summer, would be the Parkinson Memorial Secondary, Grantley Adams Memorial Secondary and Graydon Sealy Secondary Schools.

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