North & East

'Give us the classrooms'

Parents, students protest education ministry's failure to get classrooms going

BY EVERARD OWEN
Observer writer

Monday, January 21, 2019

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SCORES of parents and students of Fair Prospect Primary School in east Portland, last Monday gathered outside the school's gate protesting the education ministry's failure to appoint a contractor for the construction of classrooms, they say, money has been allocated for.

Funding was provided by the Embassy of Japan under the Grassroots Human Security Projects, but parents told the Jamaica Observer North & East last week that the ministry has failed to appoint a contractor.

Parent and past student Khalia Morgan, who volunteered to speak on behalf of parents, argued that $11.6 million was given to the school in March to construct the classrooms, but almost a year later no work has been done.

“This grade six classroom has been there for years. I am 34 years old and this condition is here for more than 15 years. From I was in grade six they have been constantly repairing the plyboard. We want the children to feel comfortable in their classrooms and the teachers. We want something good so that the children can learn. The present condition is not healthy for the children. One classroom is infested with [termites]. We need the minister to do something,” Morgan said.

“We padlocked the gates this morning (last Monday) to make our voices heard. This is my daughter's last year at the school and she is in that class. I am not doing this because it is affecting my child. I am out here because it is a good school and I want it to be better. We want a proper school. It is a good school and kids do learn here,” the woman added.

She said that parents were told that work would begin in summer 2018, but that timeline later changed to the Christmas break.

“My child will be doing a new and difficult examination and we want the conditions to improve,” Morgan said.

Portland Eastern Member of Parliament Dr Lynvale Bloomfield last Monday urged Minister of Education Senator Ruel Reid to start the process.

“I have spoken to the minister and the CEO (chief education officer) on several occasions about getting the work started as others school, who got the grant at the same time, have theirs completed and this has not yet been started. I asked them to deal with the situation as the staff and the children are suffering,” Bloomfield said.

“We start to ask from June last year because it is said they are going to take back the money if the work is not done before a certain time. I've been back to him three or four times and I was told the money won't be taken back as the work soon start. I have spoken to him in Parliament and he has promised to call me and I have not received that call up to now, and I am still waiting. I want to know when it will start, so I can tell the people. The community needs to know. Our students are suffering, our teachers are suffering and we need to know because the classroom is needed.

“Persons have gone out of their way to seek the funding and we need to see the work on the ground. We need to see the classroom up and our children in there learning. They are our future and I stand in solidarity with you. We want the school to be done,” the MP told the protesters.

Former board Chairman Audrey Mason, who was present during the protest, said that two classrooms are to be constructed from the money.

“The Japanese Government gave the school $11.6 million for two new classrooms because one has been eaten out by termites and to replace some windows in existing classrooms. This was given to us from March of last year. I collected the cheque and gave it to the principal and it was lodged into the school account. Eight months have gone and nothing has been done. It should have been done over the summer. We keep asking the ministry and have been told that it is out to tender but the process is not completed as yet. The classroom is badly needed and we are not getting the action and I support the parents as there has been no action. We were told that it is out to tender and it is in the system, but it's a long time now,” he said.


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