While thousands of students across the country have returned to the classroom, the almost 300 students of St. Mary’s Primary School remain at home and online. That’s because the school’s management called off in-person learning due to the deplorable condition of the structures on its compound. Reporter Vejea Alvarez visited the school this morning and tells us more.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: After decades of providing a safe space for thousands of students to be educated, the cracking beams, crumbling roofs, and collapsing walls of St. Mary’s Primary School have become a hazard for students and teachers. On Thursday, the school called an emergency meeting to inform parents that the school’s buildings need to be replaced because it is not safe for anyone to be inside. In June, the Administration assessed the building and was advised that it was not safe for use due to structural issues. And, according to Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, the General Manager of Anglican Primary Schools, another assessment also yielded the same result forcing the school to make creative decisions prior to the start of the academic year.
Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, General Manager, Anglican Primary School: “As a management, we are sourcing wooden classroom buildings that we have in the back of the compound as a temporary measure so that the students can come back to school as quickly as possible. While we are sourcing them, because the company has told us that it will be the end of September before we get the first one, when we get the first one we’ll begin with Infants and we’ll go from there. While that is happening, our students are going to be online and they have received their packages. So, we’re sending distance learning packages home and the students are going to be with their teachers online while we’re getting the buildings back.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: But how did the school get to this point of beyond repair? According to Cayetano, it was due to years of the school’s management lacking the adequate funds to keep up with repairs.
Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, General Manager, Anglican Primary School: “I think on a whole, everywhere you go, in every corner, funds are scarce. We are in this position now and our management, our diocese, we are pledged to do everything we can. We have the support of the Ministry of Education. I need to say that. We have their support and we know that we are not alone in this endeavour. So it’s not because of anything to do with any clientele why we’re here. We’re here because in general, across the board, across the world, funds are scarce for the things that we need to.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: The decision has come as a blow to many parents and students who were anxiously awaiting the return to the classroom after being forced to learn from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cayetano says that despite the difficulties of distance learning, teachers of St. Mary’s remain committed and are doing their best to provide quality education.
Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, General Manager, Anglican Primary School: “It was a difficult thing. The administrators who had the meeting with the parents and shared with them what has been happening but we prefer to have the children safe rather than to have them in rooms that are not safe. Parents are disappointed, a lot of them. Which is the reason we are trying to expedite the matter of getting the students back on the compound. The biggest issue, I believe is, ensuring that the students are learning, which is what our teachers have pledged to do.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: The school is expecting to have their first in person classes in early October and are hoping to have a full return of its entire population in early next year. Until then Cayetano added that the faculty and staff of the institution are asking parents to understand the situation and work with the school that is doing all it can for its students.
Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, General Manager, Anglican Primary School: “This school has crafted a literacy program for the Infant students. The administration has trained the teachers in going through ensuring that the children are reading as quickly as they possibly can. That is something that is admirable. This school has a special education component. So students who would be challenged in any way they’re open to those students. Those students come. I have seen it in action. This school caters to them. This school has a dental program where the dental hygiene of the children is attended to. You know? This is an excellent school. We ask that the parents stay the course with us. We’re doing everything that we can to get the situation sorted out as soon as we possibly can.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: If anyone is willing to assist the school in its efforts to rebuild and rehouse its students they can do so by contacting the Anglican Diocese of Belize. Vejea Alvarez, Love News.