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Ministry, SVGTU disagree about safety of Canouan Government School building

Ministry, SVGTU disagree about safety of Canouan Government School building

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Minister of Education St Clair “Jimmy” Prince is assuring users of the Canouan Government School building that the structure is safe and there is no immediate danger of the building collapsing.

However, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) is of a contrary view and has advised teachers to report for duty, but to keep away from the building.

Earlier this month, parents and teachers associated with the Canouan Government School raised concerns over structural problems at the Grenadine island’s only primary school. Teachers relocated their classes outdoors after cracks in the school building widened.{{more}}

But on Wednesday, the education minister told SEARCHLIGHT that two sets of engineers from the Buildings, Roads and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) and from the Ministry of Works, have inspected the building and reported that there is no immediate threat “to life or limb” and that the school is in no danger of collapsing.

Prince said that the teachers and parents were advised since last week that the building is safe, “but the Union (SVGTU) is agitating.”

He said that the Union’s call for persons to stay out of the building is not justified, as the Union does not have the advice of engineers.

“The engineers have said that the building is firm and there is no danger of it collapsing. It will be regularly monitored and the engineers will do some work on it during the holidays,” said Prince.

He said that repairs on the cracks and other issues will be carried out when school closes, as work cannot be done during school time.

“…they will monitor it at regular periods, but they have said there is no danger,” stressed Prince.

But a release issued by the SVGTU on Wednesday says that the building has been declared structurally unsafe and as a consequence jeopardizes the safety of the occupants.

According to the release, the SVGTU’s decision follows a consultation involving a team from the SVGTU, an engineer and contractor, along with teachers of the school on Wednesday.

The release stated: “The experts indicate that in the grade 1 classroom, the walls are separating from the foundation and the possibility of a collapse is very real.

“They further state that in grades 5 and 6, the walls are very unstable and are separating from the foundation. The engineer noted with great concern that patching is not enough to fix the problems since they are structural ones.”

The release goes on to say, “Our team observed that outside close to the water tank, the walls are unstable and are detaching, a situation the engineer describes as ‘a catastrophe waiting to happen’.” The cracks are also showing that the foundation is being removed and walls are bursting. The Computer Lab is another potential disaster as there are cracks and bursts and new cracks appearing. According to the engineer, ‘new cracks at the back of the school indicate that there is movement of the foundation’.”

The release states that members of staff are very uncomfortable and the structural damage is having a psychological impact on them.

“The SVGTU takes its responsibility seriously and will not sacrifice the safety of students, parents, its members or any other occupant of that building,” said the release, which was signed by the Union’s public relations officer Wendy Bynoe.(LC)

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