The Bahamas Union of Teachers president, Belinda Wilson, hosted a press conference yesterday at CH Reeves Junior High School.
Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A TEACHER strike at C H Reeves Junior High School could spoil the start of the new school term after the Bahamas Union of Teachers received a strike certificate on Monday.
BUT president Belinda Wilson said only if her demands are satisfied, including an independent assessment that mould has been eliminated from classrooms, would a strike be averted. She assembled the press to tour the school yesterday, claiming Education Minister Jeff Lloyd would tour the campus with her. However, Mr Lloyd never appeared. Instead, school officials called the police and the press was told to leave the premises.
She said: “No teachers are going in the classrooms at C H Reeves on Monday unless and until the Ministry of Education can provide for one, an independent report that the mould has been tested, two, that the termite infestation in an area has been eradicated and three, that the teachers and the students will occupy the new 12 classroom block in back of the school.”
She also demanded written proof that mould in classrooms has been remediated by a professional company, not a “man off the street.”
The Department of Labour initially declined to give BUT a strike certificate because not all teachers in the country had the chance to vote in a strike poll. C H Reeves teachers were the only ones that participated.
Officials have not explained why they reversed their decision, but Mrs Wilson claimed Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis intervened in the matter after she spoke to him. Labour Director John Pinder suggested the strike certificate was issued without his recommendation when contacted yesterday. He referred The Tribune to Labour Minister Dion Foulkes who did not respond to questions up to press time last night.
More than anything else, the BUT said it will not accept an assessment of whether C H Reeves is fit for occupancy if the assessment is done by Anthony Ryan, a public analyst at the Department of Environmental Health. The assessment, the BUT said, must be conducted by an independent company.
Mrs Wilson said: “Initially Mr Ryan was the officer who came and was supposed to do an assessment of the mould on behalf of the Ministry of Education. He never tested the mould. Now today he is setting up a machine to test the mould in the 19 classrooms. He was supposed to do it initially, six to eight weeks ago. He did not do it. Now we are saying anything Mr Ryan presents to us as it pertains to C H Reeves we will not accept. We want an independent company to do the assessment.”
Mrs Wilson said the BUT did not tour the school campus yesterday as expected. She said the deputy director of education told them no photos or recordings could be taken, causing them to bail on the walkabout.
“It’s not his place to give us any instructions because it’s the BUT that took the Ministry of Education to labour (officials),” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why we left.”
As for the 12 new classrooms, Mrs Wilson insisted they must be ready for occupancy because the campus’ other buildings are too old.
“Teachers were teaching in those classrooms, but they’re not the best classrooms,” she said. “The place is old, it is dilapidated; teachers have been making it work. Those buildings, if they haven’t been condemned, they need to be condemned. The government was supposed to be getting an occupancy certificate for the new 12 classrooms in the back area of the campus. We thought today they would be able to assure us that the new block which has 12 classrooms would be available for use on Monday, but we have not received that assurance.”
Mrs Wilson said: “When we walk into this school, teachers and students on January 7, we want to walk into an environment that is conducive for education and teaching. We don’t want any foolishness, any lies, any misinformation, from the Ministry of Education, from the person coming from the Ministry of Environment and we want commitments that whatever is not done today will be done in time for the opening of school on Monday. If it is not done we will invoke our right to strike at C H Reeves.”