Penal parents protest for new school

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

WE WANT A NEW SCHOOL: Parents protest outside the dilapidated St Dominic’s RC School in Penal on Tuesday. PHOTO BY MARVIN HAMILTON –

Parents of pupils from the St Dominic’s RC School protested on Tuesday to highlight deplorable conditions at the Penal Community Centre. They also demanded that the Government build a new school for the students and staff.

Owing to the dilapidated conditions of the wooden school at Oliviere Drive, students from standards one to five have been relocated to the nearby centre for over five years. The infant’s department is housed across the street from the original school, in the St Dominic’s RC Parish Hall.

From 6 am, some 15 parents gathered at the centre’s front gates on Community Centre Street.

They complained about cramped conditions and said the building is also plagued with electrical and plumbing issues.

Valeen Smart, who has a daughter attending the school, said said the centre is unsuitable for learning. She estimated that there are 200-plus students and the centre’s condition poses a threat to their health and safety.

“They are practically sitting one on top of the other inside there. The conditions are unfair to the staff too. They are excellent teachers who go beyond the call of duty.

“There are only six toilets for the students, three for the boys and three for the girls.

“It is time we get a new school,” she said.

Another protester, Anthonius George, said parents should not have to be protesting for the authorities to hear their cries.

“Just last week I came and fixed most of the toilets in the school. I am not a plumber, but I know a little of the trade. Most of the lighting fixtures are not working properly,” George said. “There are certain parts of the school where water gets in the building when it rains. The air condition unit is not working. It is problem after problem.”

George said the voice of the children is the voice of God and their voices are supposed to be heard.

Last week Tuesday, Levi Lewis, 12, and his mother were murdered at their home at Lachoos Road in Penal. He was a student of the school.

George said he is hurting about crimes, particularly involving children as both the victims and culprits. He called on society to show love to children.

“When are we going to really show love to our children? Our children need to be loved. We need to stand up and do what is right for them.”

The parents also went to the original site, which was surrounded by overgrown bushes.

“People use the yard for grazing cattle and goats,” said a parent identified only as Sherry. “The owners moved the animals because they know we are protesting today. There are rats, snakes and bees.”

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and other officials toured several St Patrick education district schools on Tuesday.

Newsday spoke with her at St Bridgid’s Girls’ RC School at La Pastora Street in Siparia. She promised to investigate the matter to bring relief to students and staff.

Gadsby-Dolly said she did not have exact details in terms of rebuilding the school.

“We do have several decanted schools for quite a few years. For many years, community centres have typically been used as the decanting centers for schools, because they tend to have infrastructure that can be easily adjusted to accommodate the school,” she said.

Tuesday’s tour was aimed at interacting with the principals, other staff and students on the holistic operations of the schools.