TTUTA hopes ministry repairs Longdenville school swiftly

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Fire destroyed a significant section of the Palmiste Government Primary School in Palmiste Longdenville on
Thursday December 7, 2023. – Photo by Roger Jacob

Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Martin Lum Kin has expressed sadness over the fire that gutted Palmiste Primary School in Longdenville.

In a phone conversation with Newsday, Lum Kin said he hopes the Ministry of Education (MoE) will do everything in its power to ensure teachers and students have a place to go in the January school term.

He cautioned the ministry about having the school relocated or making it share a building wuth another school.

“Our experience in the past has taught us that the majority of these schools remain in the relocated building or schools for quite a long period.

“We are aware the MoE can access emergency funding from the Ministry of Finance, and we hope they do so.”

He said TTUTA is concerned that students’ education may be disrupted.

Lum Kin said TTUTA has a meeting with the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education in January.

TTUTA’s district field officer visited the school on the morning of the fire and spoke to staff, he said, adding that TUTTA and the staff were thankful no one was injured and the fire happened at the end of the school term.

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, in a WhatsApp conversation on Wednesday, said her ministry is collaborating with the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation to demolish and clear rubble from the school in Longdenville.

Gadsby-Dolly said 176 students were affected by the fire and the ministry would determine, after the rubble is cleared, if it is possible to house some in the usable portion of the school. She said discussions are under way with a nearby private school to accommodate the standard five students.

The education minister said options for relocation have been recommended and are being explored, site visits are ongoing and a decision on the way forward will be made this week, after which preparations will be made to accommodate the remaining students. She did not comment on the cost of the damage or the cost of repairing the school.

Also speaking with Newsday via WhatsApp on Wednesday, NPTA president Walter Stewart said there is a need to reinspect all school electrical wiring, owing to its age.

“This may call for an electrical maintenance team to make recommendations for a comprehensive repair and maintenance plan. The fire service and OSHA must make regular visits to ensure schools meet and comply with safety codes.”

The Palmiste Government Primary School was gutted by the fire on December 7. Gadsby-Dolly said the fire started around 1 am.

She was awaiting a report from the fire service.

She issued a statement to parents,saying, “This is a very unfortunate circumstance. The ministry will do what is required for the educational continuity of its students and is working assiduously on that.”

Newsday visited the area last Thursday and a resident said a month before the fire, the school’s roof had been refurbished. A nearby shopkeeper expressed concern about the loss of income and a business owner asked the ministry to consider the families, saying the students came from poor families and relocation may financially affect some.