Hackett blames THA bureaucracy for late school repairs

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA Education Secretary Zorisha Hackett – THA

BUREAUCRACY is to blame for the breakdown in the school repair programme, says THA Secretary of Education, Research and Technology Zorisha Hackett.

Hackett spoke during Wednesday’s Tobago Updates morning programme.

She said one of her goals as secretary was to ensure that on the first day of each school term, all staff and students return to their classes in a safe environment – “one that is visibly pleasing, one that promotes learning, one where you feel comfortable, and you feel engaged enough to want to produce.”

Hackett said this has been her driving force since becoming secretary of the division.

Two schools in Tobago – Scarborough Secondary and Speyside Secondary – did not open on Monday owing to a need for repairs. Speyside reopened on Tuesday but the former is expected to reopen on September 12.

Hackett said there is a mould issue to be addressed at St Andrew’s Anglican Primary School and a lighting problem at Parlatuvier Anglican Primary School.

Last week, Hackett said repairs at schools had been classified as high, medium and low priority. Only high-priority repairs would affect the reopening of schools.

Hackett said on Wednesday that Executive Council minutes before July 8 addressed the need for school repairs.

“We had a clear plan, clear deadlines, and the breakdown just came with that bureaucratic process of pushing the paperwork up and out. Therefore, we had systems where staff would pass information on to administrator. This information would have to be signed off on, secretary of course is informed of the process, and then it goes back down and out.”

She said when she noticed the challenges, she wrote to the Chief Secretary, who then wrote to the Chief Administrator, who wrote to the division’s administrator. She said this continued until the first week of August, when the Executive Council met and approved a minute for emergency repair work, which was done by sole select tendering.

She said she is mindful that more challenges will be highlighted in the first and second week of school, but “responding to the challenge is what is going to make the difference.”

She added, “The face of the division is its secretary, and so the secretary has to stand up and take on that leadership role in the way she can. I am going to be me. If persons have a difficulty, a challenge issue, they will have to grow used to it or used to me – I am not going to change who I am.”

She said one way for her “to definitely shut the noise down, just as I did on 25th of January and on the 6th of December (the past two THA elections) is to deliver.

“When I start to deliver, I hope these same critics can be objective enough and true to themselves and say, ‘Look, she is delivering.’

“But you don’t hear them when the deliveries are had, you don’t.”