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Ministry concerned about destruction of furniture

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Having to spend approximately $2 million to repair and supply new furniture at schools across state is creating a concern for the Ministry of Education.{{more}}

The situation has prompted Minister of Education Girlyn Miguel to call for students, teachers and parents to be held accountable for the care of furniture.

“One usually hears about a lack of an adequate supply of furniture at the school level. What one usually doesn’t hear is why the needs are the same, year after year,” said Miguel, at a press briefing on Wednesday, September 15.

Voicing the Ministry’s concern, Miguel said the ministry cannot continue to replace furniture “continuously and indefinitely”.

She noted that there are many needs within the system which will “obviously not be addressed if each year the furniture has to be replaced due to lack of care and accountability at the school level.”

Miguel disclosed that the Ministry is aware that in many instances, furniture is used as a substitute for footballs, rocking chairs, etc.

Recently, the Ministry of Finance in conjunction with the Ministry of Education through the Central Supplies Tenders Board awarded to local suppliers in excess of $394,166 for the provision of furniture for all educational institutions throughout St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

Realizing that this supply was inadequate to address the furniture requirements of almost 100 educational institutions, the Ministry of Education tendered through the Education Project Management Unit an additional amount of $790,000 worth of furniture through the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Basic Education II Project. However, this only catered for furniture for the four schools constructed under this particular project: The Central Leeward, Dr. J.P. Eustace Memorial Secondary School, Fair Hall and the Bequia Anglican Primary School.

The Ministry further successfully negotiated with the CDB to have approximately $300,000 worth of furniture, through local tendering, delivered at the end of October. An additional $502,000 worth of furniture is expected to be delivered late December/early January 2011 through regional tendering.

When asked if the Ministry of Education will be introducing a policy across the board to the deal with the situation, Nicole Bonadie-Baker, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, said policy is usually driven by concrete and sound statistical information.

“The Ministry of Education needs to capture information in order to properly advise the Cabinet of this country,” said Bonadie-Baker.

Bonadie-Baker said the Ministry will wait until it has the information to make a sound judgment on policy direction and advice.

She disclosed that the assessment of the damaged furniture only came in at the end of last school year, and in some instances, the “numbers were quite horrific coming from some of the schools.”

She said as of this new academic year, principals will be asked to return their reports to the Ministry of Education quarterly instead of at the end of the school year.

“Given that the standard of furniture across the board will be basically the same, we will be able to see those who are culpable, in terms of destroying the furniture, not through accidental damage, but through willful acts.

“Which I must say, without mentioning the names of the schools, there are definite reports the Ministry has received, some official, some unofficial, of students actually throwing furniture over balconies, throwing furniture outside of classrooms and destroying them,” said Bonadie-Baker. She said the Ministry expects the Parent Teacher Assocations to play an active role as well.

“What we want to see happening at the school level is that after we have these quarterly returns submitted that the principals, who have all been trained in leadership and management, will bring to their PTAs these issues and try to get parents generally to be accountable for furniture damaged by their own children.”

The Ministry of Education in collaboration with BRAGSA will be undertaking a continuous repair programme throughout the year. (HN)