Minister of Education Glenys Hanna-Martin yesterday assured that school repairs will be completed by the time schools open for full face-to-face learning — the first time since 2020 — later this month.
Schools reopen for teachers on August 22 and for students on August 29.
“In terms of meeting our deadlines, the contractors assure us that they will meet these deadlines,” Hanna-Martin told reporters during a tour of government schools undergoing repairs.
“We’re trying very, very hard but a lot of the work is substantial. This is not just painting a door or putting a nail in the wall. You are seeing a redevelopment of our school campuses and we are doing that purposefully in the interests of children of this nation.”
The substantive scope of work being undertaken at the schools were evident when The Nassau Guardian visited yesterday.
Wooden beams were erected where concrete columns usually stood on the upper floor of one of the buildings at Government High School. The school’s court is filled with stacks of wooden planks.
It was a more dramatic scene at Sybil Strachan Primary School where the roof was missing for one of the buildings and where construction workers worked feverishly under the sweltering sun to repair the roof on another building.
At T.A. Thompson Junior High School, wooden beams were installed on the roof, and balconies of buildings and scaffolds lined several others.
“A lot of the work has been truly significant,” Hanna-Martin said at T.A. Thompson.
“This particular campus — and the minister of works can speak more to it — was seriously a huge enterprise as you can see … There were significant challenges and work underway and probably more than it was initially anticipated.
“The objective is to get school open. We’re trying very hard and everybody is working very hard. It’s all hands on deck.”
Hanna-Martin said some schools were in “deplorable conditions”.
Minister of Works Alfred Sears said there were structural issues at some schools.
“The minister (of education) has mandated that this not be a cosmetic exercise,” he said.
“In so many of the plans, you have structural problems which have existed for many, many years. As the repairs are being done, some of those outstanding structural defects, challenges, deterioration are being addressed as we see here at T.A. Thompson.
“Even now, as the scope of repairs are being done, they encounter challenges and they’re addressing those challenges on the spot.”
Sears said balconies and staircases are being changed at some schools.
He said some foundations have also been redone.
The government is also focused on repairing school on the Family Islands ahead of reopening, according to Hanna-Martin.
“Patrick J. Bethel [High School on Abaco] has a plumbing issue,” she said.
“In fact, I just spoke with the contractor who is dealing with that. He has assured that when school reopens that issue with be resolved.”
Fifteen million dollars was allocated for school repairs in the budget, according to the education minister.
But it appears that the scope of work will exceed what was budgeted.
When asked how much was spent, Hanna-Martin replied, “I will be able to tell you at the end of this process but I think that the resources invested have been significant. They’re worth it. They’re for the children of this nation but we will be able to account at the end of the day.”
Prime Minister Philip Davis led yesterday’s tour of the schools. He was accompanied by Hanna-Martin, Sears and other officials from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Works.
Davis thanked education and works officials as well as contractors for ensuring the schools are in optimal conditions for students.
“You know, there is a psychology truth that if we are in squalor, our minds become squalored,” he said.
“If you are in a clean and pristine environment, so will your mind be clean and pristine. And so, the mandate, as expressed by the minister of education, that we ensure that these environments and venues, where our children are being taught and teachers are teaching, are in such a state, that it helps to relieve the minds of our people to want to learn and to want to teach.”