Opposition: schools face ‘systemic problem’
A “damning” report into the condition of the island's schools highlighted systematic problems that must be addressed, according to the One Bermuda Alliance.
Cole Simons, Shadow Minister of Education, thanked the Government for its transparency in releasing the report last week, but said the situation at Bermuda's schools was unacceptable.
Mr Simons said: “This report truly underscores the fact that there appears to be no adequate facilities management plans or protocols, in our schools.
“Let us be clear, the report demonstrates deficiencies in all of our schools, and as a consequence this is a systemic problem.”
He added: “The Ministry of Education and the Department of Public Works have not made these matters a priority as these issues have not been effectively addressed.
“They have not committed the appropriate resources to ensure that each of our school campuses and facilities are healthy, safe and our students, teachers and other school staff members are not placed at risk from a health and safety perspective.
“The Minister of Education and this Government should — and must — be held accountable.”
The report highlighted problems found in the schools in 2017, which included rodent infestation in some schools, exposed and damaged cancer-causing asbestos, mould, poor first-aid kits and unserviced fire extinguishers and fire-safety devices.
A follow-up report from last autumn found that many of the issues had not been tackled.
Mr Simons questioned the lack of effective oversight of custodial services at the schools and why further resources were not committed to address the problems.
He also said that Government had misled the public about mould in the schools.
Mr Simons said: “They did it last year, and again at the beginning of the school year in September when the Government indicated that the mould in our schools was effectively managed, and that our schools met all health and safety standards.
“As our Minister of Public Works recently indicated in the House of Assembly, our invasive ‘national flower', mould, is alive and well.
“It continues to present itself throughout most of our schools and yet there is no national remediation plan to bring this challenge under control.”
The shadow minister said it was “unconscionable” that most schools did not have functioning workplace safety and health committees.
Mr Simons said the ministry needed to insist on monthly health and safety inspections and reports.
He said: “If they insist upon regular and routine administrative or academic reviews, and reports required for each school, the same should apply for health and safety reviews and reports.”
He added: “There is no excuse for the poor management, and noncompliant state of the rudimentary fire safety equipment and devices, and the first aid and medical supplies and protocols at each school.
“This is nothing but administrative negligence and a dereliction of duties. It is just unacceptable.
“Hopefully, with the current Educational Strategic Plan 2022, and its priority in regards to our schools and their physical plants, these issues will finally be addressed by the Government with the appropriate resources.”