Principal, teachers and students at the Belmont Primary School have given the upgrades carried out at the plant by the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training a passing grade.
The school, which reopened last Monday, September 23, closed early on its first day after staff and pupils complained of a strong paint odour following works conducted over the summer vacation.
Some parents also took issue with the water-borne portable toilets which were temporarily placed at the school by the Ministry until the pre-fab bathroom, which was being built offsite, was installed.
However, there were many smiling faces last week when the school reopened. Principal, Pamela Ifill, said they were “pleased” with the work carried out by the Ministries of Education and Transport, Works and Maintenance to ready the school for the start of classes.
“As you can see from the smile on my face we are quite happy. We returned to school [last Monday] and everyone has expressed their joy and their pleasure at the upgrades that we have seen. The prefab building that was really termite infested, a lot of woodwork has been done on that. It is almost like a brand new building and the children are comfortable in there. I am also happy to say that we’ve had an upgrade in the nutrition room facilities – again a problem with termites – so cupboards have been refurbished, the netting has been replaced.
“But one of the biggest joys is that of the refurbished bathrooms for the boys. For a very long time, we have been putting up with bathrooms that had a lot of issues – old plumbing, for example. So it is really overwhelming to see the upgrade that has been done. Even the girls have new facilities. Even though the building is the old building they are accustomed to, everything in it has been replaced so there are totally new fittings,” Ms. Ifill reported.
She said that worthy of note was that for the first time, boys now had sinks in their bathrooms. Prior to the new facilities, they had to leave the bathroom and go to another area of the school to wash their hands.
The Principal said parents and teachers were also happy with the improvements, which included the repaving of the yard and fixing the roads leading to the school.
“Parents have been expressing their pleasure at what they see. They were very vocal last week when we came in and left half-day because the conditions were less than desirable. They have been very free with their comments on how good the school looks. Teachers were commenting not only on the physical surroundings but the fact that because of all the upgrades and the way the school looks, the children seemed to have settled a lot faster and the school has a peacefulness about it,” Ms. Ifill said.
When a representative from the Barbados Government Information Service spoke to some of the parents during the first week of school, they expressed their satisfaction with the upgrades.
Amanda Alleyne is the parent of two Belmont Primary students.
“I am pleased to see that they have moved from the chemical toilets because that had left a very distasteful feeling with me. To come and see that they have built brand new toilets I am very pleased about that. As a past student, I left here 20 years ago, the toilet facilities are a big improvement. The school does need a lot of other repairs and I believe in time they will get to that,” she remarked.
Another parent, Damien Nicholls, said his son could not wait to tell him about the new facilities after school last Monday.
“I was a bit disappointed at the start but my son came home and said ‘Daddy, Daddy, we got new bathrooms!’ I was like cool you like it? And he said yes. He’s in reception, this is his first year at school. As far as the school, I am quite impressed. Once you have an impression on my son, you have an impression on me.
When I heard about the hiccups at the school I was a bit perturbed but they got them rectified so I am good,” he affirmed.
David Oxley, whose son used to attend Belmont Primary, visited the school to see the improvements for himself. He is also a past student and one of the many parents who give back by helping out at the school.
“The school is one of the oldest primary schools in the island. A lot of people I know went to school here. We as people in the community should really come out and help. We can’t just leave it up to the Ministry [of Education]. We can come and paint. We don’t have to wait on the Ministry. We can fix a chair or a table. Those little things go a long way. Any little help is good. But I am very happy with what I see here today,” he said.
On one of her recent visits to Belmont Primary, Education Minister Santia Bradshaw explained that Belmont Primary School was one of the schools slated to be rebuilt under the Education Sector Enhancement Programme (ESEP) several years ago, but the funding had been lost.
She stated that Government would be seeking out international funding “to make a case for the rebuild of some of the schools”.
“… because these plants are costing the Government and the people of Barbados substantial sums of money to maintain. We need to prepare for the next 20 years instead of trying to make good, things that you can’t make good, in a short space of time…The solution is to move towards what was intended, which is a complete rebuild of some of the structures,” she emphasized.
Principal Ifill, said she was grateful to the Ministry and would be eagerly awaiting the day they could walk into their new school plant. She explained that a lot of the children came from “depressed areas” and needed a welcoming school environment.
“We want to thank the Ministry of Education for coming to our rescue. We are by no means where we want to be. We have been promised a new school and we are praying that that day comes before we leave here so that we can enjoy the kind of environs that we believe support proper teaching and learning,” she stated.