On September 2 when classes are set to resume on the primary level, over five dozen children might be out of school since the Mount Carmel Preschool in Benque Viejo del Carmen Town, Cayo District was not granted their school license by the Ministry of Education. Indications are that the district education office has expressed concerns over the distance between the school building and the restroom infrastructure considering that they are catering to pre-schoolers. Reporter, Courtney Menzies went west yesterday to find out what really is happening.
Over sixty children have been registered to attend school at Mount Carmel Pre School in less than two weeks but the school’s license has been rejected by the Ministry of Education’s District Council. One of the main concerns cited by the council was that the bathroom was not in the same building as the classroom, according to the school’s manager Deacon Cal he did not think that this would have been an issue.
Deacon Cal, Manager: “We started building in around October or November of 2017 and we built as hard as we could but all that we could get done by the end of the year were the four classroom buildings. This place is a spring and that is what I don’t think the Ministry realizes. Those buildings were built on a spring, we had to do a lot of work to make sure that that spring never got inside the buildings. When we had that meeting on April 25 2018 I understood, what I told the people who were gonna inspect, that this is what I would like to do build the building here. I didn’t explain about the spring and the problem we’ll have with bathrooms over on that side but I did explain that we could use the septic tank and drainage from the Rotary bathrooms I did explain that. Now somewhere in between my explanation and my explanation of where we would build it and the council’s team there must have been a misunderstanding. “
Decon Cal explained that they chose to have the bathrooms outside to be more convenient for both the children and the school. Little kids are prone to messes and this way it would be easier for them to clean up and for the bathroom’s attendant to clean the area. Additionally, the kids would not feel embarrassed if they do make a mess. However, the council is not yielding and Decon Cal fears that the children will be the main ones suffering.
Deacon Cal, Manager: “It’s almost like we don’t mind penalizing the children in Benque. We don’t want to do that and we believe that if the Minister heard the whole story he would be absolutely behind this.”
Despite what Deacon Cal believes Minister of Education Patrick Faber is adamant about upholding the district council’s position. He explained that the school’s management had ample time to make the necessary changes but that Deacon Cal refused to comply.
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education: “Granting a license for a school, even if it is a preschool is a matter that is dealt with at the district level so there is a district education council that receives that application. My information tells me that as early as January of this year the district education council looked at that application and did a site visit and informed the management that in fact the premises for the preschool was not adequate and as a result they needed to do certain things including addressing a situation of a bathroom that was quite a little bit away from the main premises where they want to put the children. Deacon Cal of the Roman Catholic Church in that area has long tried to operate and do things his own way and in fact this is one of the areas where my officers from the district have informed that they have said to Deacon Cal repeatedly what needs to be done here and he has absolutely refused to get it done.”
What would happen if September 7 comes and school opens and it is not fully ready?
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education: “They will not be able to operate without a license, that is illegal and if they want the license the district education council is happy to grant that once they comply with what is required. Some people are saying ‘why don’t you just allow them and they will fix it afterward?’ well because of the uncooperative nation of assistant local manager who seems to not listen to his general manager, doesn’t listen to his bishop on occasion, launches all kinds of crazy attacks against the Ministry of Education whenever he feels the need to that is unacceptable.”
Deacon Cal brought up the point that there are other preschools whose bathrooms are separate from the classrooms. Minister Faber explained that while this is true he quoted “bad precedent” does not make a good policy. But what about the children who will be unable to attend school on September 2nd? The education minister told us how they can move forward.
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education: “Other than insisting that we break the rule what we’re asking is that people double up, Ministry, parents, administration of the school, management, and everybody gets together to address the situation so that we can get it right and have the children start at this level as early as possible.”
Yesterday, a meeting was held between Deacon Cal and the parents, where they signed a petition that they plan to send to the Ministry of Education, hoping that the school will get permission to open their doors on September 2.