20 schools to be completed soon - Minister

Twenty unfinished schools have been placed on a priority list for completion, among these the Chatham Government Primary School.

This was revealed by Education Minister Anthony Garcia in response to complaints from residents that three primary schools in Cedros were shut down because of infrastructural defects.

Garcia said many of the incomplete schools were held up because of outstanding debts owed to contractors.

"When I assumed office, there were several schools at various stages of construction. A number of contractors were not paid and some even took the Ministry to court for non-payment. We have been meeting with contractors to discuss outstanding issues and I am happy to report that payments will be made to some contractors in a matter of days. Construction will resume on those schools which are on a priority listing," Garcia said.

On Tuesday, Cedros resident Sunil Sookram said students of Chatham Government,  Granville RC and Cedros Anglican schools have been suffering after their schools were shut down.

While one school, the Chatham Government School has been rebuilt and is 90 percent complete, grass and bushes are growing inside the compound. The pupils have been forced to attend classes in a community centre at Warden Road, located some 15 miles away. The Granville RC pupils are housed in containers at the Granville Activity Centre while the Cedros Anglican has been sharing cramped quarters with the Cedros Government Primary School.

"Imagine young children as little as five years have to get up before dawn to get dressed to go to school," Sookram said.

He added that education was the key to ending poverty in the southwest peninsula. While many parents wanted their children to excel, Sookram said their chances of success were grim because of the closure of the schools.

"I get so angry when I hear the Minister of Education said all schools were opened for the new term. This is not the case in Cedros. Our children are suffering," Sookram said.

Kishan Babwah, 22 who studied electrical engineering at the National Energy Skills Centre said the NESC campus in Point Fortin was also closed down.

"My dream is to be an electrician but now that NESC closed we really have no choice but to do fishing and farming in Cedros," Babwah said.

Councillor for Cedros Shankar Teelucksingh called on the government to rebuild the schools for the sake of the children.

He said when the Granville RC was closed down in 2017, the Minister promised that it would be reconstructed within a two year period.

"So far not a shovel of dirt has been turned. The Chatham school was reconstructed and the Early Childhood centre is 95 percent complete but none of them has been opened," Teelucksingh said.

He noted that the Chatham pupils were packed up like sardines in a tin in the community centre.

"The monies they pay to maxis to carry the children to Point Fortin could be used to finish the school. If the Chatham school is opened, the children could walk to school," he said.

- by Radhica De Silva. Photo by Kristian De Silva.