Union knocks Jones again
President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) Mary Redman has again taken Minister of Education Ronald Jones to task, this time accusing the minister of not being “altogether factual” over the flow of information about Foundation School.
Jones reportedly stated last week that he had not received any correspondence from the BSTU regarding environmental concerns at the Christ Church learning institution, after the union said it was putting Government on notice that it needed to fix the “sick building syndrome” at Foundation and Harrison College as soon as possible or the union would pull its estimated 120 members from the classroom.
However, Redman told Barbados TODAY the minister’s statement was erroneous and failed to take the protocol involved into consideration.
“The Minister’s statement in this regard does not accurately reflect the facts of the situation,” the union leader said today.
She provided Barbados TODAY with the copy of a letter dated June 15, 2015 which was hand-delivered to the Ministry by Foundation School shop steward Mona Robinson on, or near that same date.
She said the letter, which was addressed to the principal of the school and copied to the Permanent Secretary (PS), outlined the environmental issues being experienced at Foundation as far back as June last year.
“Please note that protocol dictates that correspondence to various ministries is always sent to the PS and the BSTU has, as usual, followed correct procedure,” Redman added.
The one-and-a-quarter page correspondence gave accounts of at least two teachers and the librarian who fell ill, apparently because of the condition of a prefabricated building that houses the music department, as well as the bookroom and the library.
“Mr Lowrey Worrell, who is assigned to, and teaches all of his classes in the prefab building . . . became quite ill and spent a considerable time (nearly a term) away from school. On his return he wrote [a] letter in October of 2014, asking for the room to be checked since he was aware that the roof was leaking and his symptoms (headaches, sore throat, coughing and wheezing) seem to occur when he used the room. Mr Worrell continues to be ill, recently returning from a two week absence having been diagnosed with a chest infection,” the letter read.
It also named teacher Laura Payne, who worked in the same building, as having taken ill with similar symptoms and also had to have a CAT scan, subsequently being diagnosed with bacterial infection and pneumonia. “Both teachers are asthmatics and the serious implications of this, given their ongoing illnesses, are obvious,” stated the document.
The correspondence also noted that the Ministry of Health had closed the building in 2014 because of the unsatisfactory safety and health conditions which existed.
It noted that the building was given a thorough cleaning at least twice by the ancillary staff, and the two teachers initiated measure to clean the rooms prior to the September return to school.
“In spite of the foregoing, rat droppings and rodent have been seen in the building as recent as this term [last term],” the correspondence stated.
Worrell also outlined the difficulties he was experiencing in the room, in a letter to the principal dated October 14, 2014.
Librarian Twanya Linton, who manages the bookroom and library, the letter added, had to have sick leave last term due to “sick building syndrome”. “She reports being healthy during the vacation, but becoming ill when she returns to school and specifically once she is working in the bookroom. As recently as two weeks ago, Miss Linton, who has never been asthmatic, has had to be nebulized for the second time,” the BSTU complained in the June 15, 2015 correspondence.
The union had also lamented that Linton, who worked at Foundation for the last 13 years, reported that the bookroom had only been cleaned twice by external cleaners and to the best of her knowledge, had never been industrially cleaned.
“The library has never been cleaned externally or industrially and so the real condition of air quality in both rooms can only be imagined,” the letter continued.
The BSTU said in the same correspondence that it was seriously concerned for the safety and health of the teachers and students and requested that appropriate action be taken as a matter of urgency.