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School bug

Students and staff of the Lawrence T Gay Memorial School were today forced to work almost anywhere on the school compound other than in their classrooms as a suspected environmental problem continues to plague the Spooners Hill-based institution.

President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union Pedro Shepherd told Barbados TODAY the pupils and teachers had been complaining of sore throat, itchy skin and rash.

“So when I went this morning about 11, the entire school was under trees, on the balcony, in the clerk-typist’s office and wherever they could find, teachers were teaching.”

He explained that the problem dated back to last year and though corrective action had been taken it resurfaced this term.

“Last November the school had to be closed for two days because of environmental challenges – persons coming down with itchy skin, runny eyes, sore throat etc. It was industrially cleaned and they did some corrective work in terms of keeping out the pigeons and so on. But going back in this term the problem seemed to have recurred,” the BSTU president told Barbados TODAY.

Shepherd said this week a few teachers went on sick leave and children were going home on a daily basis with rashes.

“When they come back the following day the rash is gone, by the time they settle into the school the rash is back, so it cannot be attributed to anything in the home environment; it has to be in the school environment.”

He called for an air quality test to be conducted at the school, noting that the Ministry of Education had referred the issue to Environmental Protection Department.

The Ministry of Labour and local health authorities have already looked at the problem and yesterday a representative from the Brandford Taitt polyclinic visited school.

“The only thing that is left to be done basically is to have some air quality test so that you can come to some conclusion as to what is causing this sore throat, itchy skin and rash on skin,” he said.

The BSTU head called for the problem to be rectified as soon as possible, noting that teachers would still be on the job though normal classes were likely to be disrupted again tomorrow.

“Teachers cannot go into the classroom and I don’t think it is their intention to be under trees and so on for any length of time because you have challenges with the dust, you have challenges with the birds in the trees . . .  . But we recommend to them to where possible if they are fit enough to return to school tomorrow as normal and then should anything happen while they are there, just report it to the principal and take matters from there,” said Shepherd, who announced he was likely to visit the school again tomorrow.

Last year, a number of schools, Combermere and Eden Lodge Nursery School, were forced to close their doors temporarily because of environmental problems. (SD)

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