Call the cops

Redman demands probe into sabotage claims after foul odour returns at Combermere

President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman has added her voice to a call for a police investigation into allegations of sabotage at Combermere School in Waterford, St Michael.

Redman made the comment in light of yet another disruption of classes at the school Tuesday morning following the return of the foul stench that has been a constant feature of the longstanding environmental woes plaguing the learning institution.

Classes were disrupted at the Combermere School Tuesday morning following the return of the foul stench.

When Barbados TODAY arrived at the school at 10:30 Tuesday morning an ambulance was seen entering the premises. Several parents had already arrived to collect their charges. Scores of children could also be seen filing onto the playing field, an obvious indicator that it was not business as usual at the school, considered one of this island’s leading educational institutions.

Classes were reported to have resumed at 11:30 a.m., but one hour later students were again out of the classroom as the foul odour resurfaced.

The prolonged environmental problem has been a source of frustration for students, teachers and the authorities, and the cause of much angry and often bitter exchanges involving Minister of Education Ronald Jones, Principal Vere Parris and head of the History Department Reverend Charles Morris. Among the most contentious issues are claims by both Parris and Jones that sabotage had been the cause of the problem; leading Morris to ridicule both men and insist that Jones should call the police.

Redman Tuesday joined Morris in insisting that Jones should invite lawmen to prove that sabotage was the cause for the recent flare-ups.

Jones told Parliament two weeks ago there appeared to be “a deliberate attempt to sabotage the work that has been taking place over the last several months”, with two natural gas pipes in one of the Science labs being left on for about 45 minutes after a class and hand towels and children’s book leaves discovered blocking a drainage pipe from a toilet.

An ambulance entering the premises Tuesday morning.

However in an interview with Barbados TODAY Tuesday afternoon, Redman refuted these claims, adding that she had been in constant communication with the environmental team in charge of the school’s rehabilitation and they had painted a different picture.

“If there is evidence to support the sabotage then definitely the police should be called in because if that is the way of getting the problems at the school solved then that should be done forthwith. However there were certain statements made by the minister which the team of experts did not have the information to support.

BSTU President Mary Redman

“The minister said that hand towels were found in the sewage system and I am not aware of any hand towels being found. The term conjures up an image of fabric but what the team of experts actually did see was paper towels. The team also did not see any evidence of torn exercise books when they did their investigations . . . . What the team did in fact see was paper towels and wipes,” Redman contended.

Combermere School reopened at the beginning of the academic term, having been closed since last November after teachers walked off the job complaining of a foul odour, dizziness, itching and burning. The Ministry of Education was given the go-ahead by an environmental team comprising former students that had undertaken remedial work and had given the assurance that it was safe to return, although they had made it clear the situation would have to be monitored.

However, just over a month into the new term there have already been two disruptions, believed to be linked to the recurring environmental issues.

Redman confirmed she had been made aware of the situation at the school Tuesday morning and she was awaiting details before deciding on the next step.

“I got a call and then some messages from shop stewards at the school, advising that there seems to be a problem with scents again. One shop steward indicated that it might be a gas leak and that the NCC [National Conservation Commission] and other officials had been called in and are assessing the situation. There was a plan in place so that if students were affected they would initially go to the hall and if that area became compromised then they would go onto the fields,” Redman explained.

At the beginning of the term, Redman had said the staff were committed to testing the effectiveness of the corrective measures put in place by the environmental team.

However in light of today’s occurrence, she acknowledged that their patience had been severely tested in a short space of time.

“Everybody wants a solution to the problem for the safety and well-being of both teachers and students; everybody wants to see the problem solved and everybody is willing to work towards a resolution of the problem and we are truly hoping that the matters will be resolved. However, at moment the teachers have been exercising a lot of patience and restraint so far,” the BSTU head stressed.

5 Responses to Call the cops

  1. Clyde Thompson February 22, 2017 at 9:39 am

    This matter has been existing for far to long and has proven that some heads that don’t have a clue of their responsibilities and/or have not taken any corrective actions or created a procedure to do so, has to roll.
    There is just way to much chatter, pointing fingers and throwing someone under the bus, up to and including the Minister/Ministry in charge of education.
    This odor problem is serious and could be caused by an underlying cause, ie a vein of methane gas that occasionally burps and produces the odor, a similar case in the US just caused the lives of several workers who were overcome when entering the are of what was believed to be the source of leaking gas.
    Priority should be given to a 5W assessment of the problem.
    1) What’s the problem; 2) When did it start; 3) Where is the center of the problem; 4) Who is effected mostly by it and 5) Why is it happening.
    Answers these 5 W’s and analyze them you will have your answers, stop all the chatter and get it done.

  2. KB February 22, 2017 at 11:53 am

    You do have a good point there CT, as methane comes from various sources including natural gas dissolved in water…more testing necessary

  3. Mikey February 22, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    What I am really concerned about is the cost charged by the “experts” !!!
    The “Committee” comprising of Old Scholars should take full control of that situation and fix the problems. They are supposed to be brainy and widely experienced.
    I hope no one is using the situation for their own personal advantage !!!

  4. Tony Waterman February 23, 2017 at 2:08 am

    All this BS because of an untimely and FALSE REPORT by a Reporter from BARBADOS TODAY, the CEO/Owner of this Online Newspaper is a COMBERMERIAN, and he should Issue an APOLOGY for this Horrendous reporting by his Employee.

    Come on Mr Peter Harris.
    Up and On.

  5. Peter February 24, 2017 at 1:49 am

    Methane, by itself, is odorless. The ‘rotton egg’ smell is hydrogen sulphide, a tracer added to the gas to find leaks. Naturally occurring methane doesn’t have the tracer.
    If the school had been built on or near a landfill, I could see noxious fumes coming from the ground.


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