Some smell of much better to come . . . ?

We Barbadians seem to get a rush –– and quite enjoy it –– when we are faced with disasters, or better yet, would-be disasters. The potential spectacle of shock, stroke and misery presents an excitable experience, making for a feverish thrill –– at the expense, naturally, of the test subjects or victims of our enchantment.

To her credit, Ms Rhonda Blackman, president of the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (NCPTA), has sought to stifle any fascination with this most negative excitement that might overcome Combermere School. She has warned parents of the students of the Waterford institution against being unduly alarmed over claims of unhealthy and literally sickening fumes emanating from a cluster of wells on the school’s compound –– allegations yet to be confirmed.

And this is at the centre of the matter. Why would an environmental issue such as this –– where staff and students would reportedly be falling ill as a consequence –– have been allowed to reach this stage of unease and apprehension? Teachers at Combermere, the information goes, are now convinced these concentrated wells are the culprit.

Why did they wait until now to say so? Or did they report their worries to the management and board of the school in vain?

There is no doubt the more strident president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) will get to the bottom of it all, if indeed there has been laxity, non-checking, and undue care in the proper maintenance of the school grounds’ waste utilities. The Ministry of Education, having been written by the BSTU on the apparent sad state of affairs, will be expected to respond as a matter of urgency, and to execute the pertinent investigation and consequent applicable checks and balances.

Of concern though in this foul matter are that the Combermere Parent-Teacher Association had not reported any concerns to the NCPTA, by Ms Blackman’s own admission, and that the PTA president Rolerick Sobers himself was unaware of these developments until this week, and had thus not raised the matter with school principal Vere Parris. May we assume Mr Parris was as well previously uninformed?

It is not an unusual practice for the Barbadian to grumble about the unpleasant –– suffer a resultant discomfort even –– and not notify the powers that be who could or might rectify it. Such a disposition is often born out of an innate but mistaken perception of immunity to personal danger –– and, to boot, out of some disavowal of common sense.

Well, now that the alleged offensive fumes and the staff and student illnesses thereof have been made quite public,  Combermere’s powers that be now have no excuse for further inaction in the resolution of this environmental unwellness or cause for not nipping the potential imbroglio in the bud.

Too many Bajans and Barbadian institutions turn up their noses at periodical property environmental checks, being content with the regular sweeping, vacuuming and mopping. In settings where hundreds of souls gather daily and interact for hours, this is unacceptable. That such a predicament as Combermere seems to find itself in does not occur every month, or every year, does not validate the nonchalance.

The notion that if something did happen it would be elsewhere is no mantra to take comfort in. It is a very bad habit –– that should be broken.

NCPTA’s Ms Blackman is hopeful the Combermere “situation will be resolved as soon as possible”. We would dare to be more hopeful that the Ministry of Education and the school’s board of management would demonstrate a pretty picture of urgency in the next few days, putting in place some appropriate, authoritative, precise, practical and manageable protocol that will disentangle this present Waterford web, and obviate any recurrence.

What else could take us past this traditional indifference of ours and Governmental lethargy towards evironmental maintenance and safety?

Truth be told, not any more lardy-dardy mouthings from our officials!

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