Protest again at Gasparillo school over bad road

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A Student from the Caratal Sacred Heart RC hold a placard highlighting concerns over the road conditions near the school. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

Two weeks after parents of children from Caratal Sacred Heart RC Primary School in Gasparillo protested over bad roads, they returned on Friday to call on the authorities again to fix the problem.

About 20 people gathered at a major landslip near the school to complain about its impact on students’ education and the extra pinch people are feeling in their pockets.

PTA president Derrel Henry said their cries seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

He said for the past two weeks, students have been staying away from classes.

“We need the road to be fixed. We have three access roads to the school, and none are good for vehicles to pass,” Henry said at Caratal Road.

Buses have refused to service the area, and Henry added that “PH” drivers charge up to $25 to transport one child to school.

He recalled that at the opening of the term a child fell while walking to school because of the bad road, bruising her knees.

“The road so bad, children can fall. Parents also do not have the passage to come to drop off their children,” Henry said.

Henry said recently parents went to the office of the Rural Development and Local Government Minister, Faris Al-Rawi, to ask for a meeting with him. They were still awaiting confirmation of a meeting.

Caratal Road falls under the purview of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation.

To those in authority, the PTA president added: “Help us fix the road so our children can go to school. We need something, even if it is a mamaguy, to get the children to go to school.”

The school has about 95 students and nine teachers.

One parent, Rosanne Edmund, said all the parents were interested in getting the road fixed.

“We do not want confrontation. We would just like our roads fixed.

“It is over 25 years of bad roads. We want results. We do not have a temporary fix. We want a permanent fix. We need a retaining wall to prevent the road from slipping,” Edmund said.

Pedestrians walk along the Caratal main road, near the Caratal Sacred Heart RC primary school, teachers and parents are pleading to have the road fixed. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

Remedial work has been done, but Edmund claimed the boulders placed in the road caused more damage to vehicles, and drivers spent a lot on repairs.

Owner of the Body Shop Gym and Fitness Centre Hugh Findley, 73, said recurring water pipeline leaks have also added to rapid land movement. He said his home is being undermined.

“It is bad. It is hard. It is difficult. The struggle is on. When the sun is out, the road has a lot of dust. Thank God the rain came to deal with the dust.

“I am supposed to be enjoying my senior days,” Findley said.

“We are begging the authorities, whoever is in charge, to help us. We are pleading. We are calling. We are asking. We are kneeling. We are bowing for something to be done.”

A representative from the TT Unified Teachers Union (TTUTA) recalled that at the start of the term, the teachers parked their vehicles at the Catholic church further along the road, and used a 4×4 van to transport them to and from the school.

That service is no longer available.

“Teachers have been coming daily in an attempt to get to the school, but it is impossible to traverse through that landslip with our cars. Walking through the landslip means we put ourselves at risk of having injuries,” said the representative, who asked to remain unnamed.

“One of our concerns is if we are injured on the road. Who would be liable? Because the injury would not have happened on the school compound.”

She said teachers are ready to teach but want to avoid putting themselves at risk.

She said the school got a letter from the corporation saying it is willing to provide labour and equipment but does not have the materials to fix the road. The corporation wants the school to source the materials.

The TTUTA representative added that online classes are not an option.

“Not all the children have devices. Some who have devices in their homes (but) not sufficient. Some parents have one phone in the house and three or four children in different classes. Also, the work we send takes up space,” the representative said.

“Some people might have prepaid plans which would end. This could cause double teaching, because we would have to redo everything when the students come out.”