With the recurring cow itch problem forcing the closure of the Blackman and Gollop Primary School for the third straight week, parents are concerned that the situation is having a severe impact on their children’s education.
At an emergency meeting yesterday Principal of the Staple Grove, Christ Church educational institution, Petrona Holder, announced that the school would be closed for the remainder of the week.
Barbados TODAY also understands that end of term exams, which were originally scheduled to begin on Wednesday, have also been cancelled.
In addition, parents are growing increasingly anxious that up to this afternoon they had not received any word on provisions for the class four students who will be writing the Common Entrance examinations in two months’ time.
“There seems to be no provisions for the class four students and the Common Entrance exam is two months away,” frustrated parent Nadia Adams complained this afternoon.
“Our class four students have been severely disadvantaged by the class disruption and many parents are at their wits end,” she explained.
Adams was among a group of parents who hand-delivered a letter today to the Ministry of Education, outlining their frustration. Copies of the letter, signed by 86 upset parents, were also sent to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment.
Public Relations Officer of the school’s Parent Teacher Association Tricia Augustine, who accompanied the parents, told Barbados TODAY that while the cow itch flare ups were not new at the school, which is surrounded by vacant agricultural land, this episode was certainly the worst.
“This is not the first time that this has happened but it is the worst year in terms of school closures and the break-up of the term. The letter today is the first step for us to get action taken so we can get the problem under control as well as prevent it from happening in the future,” Augustine said, stressing that the parents simply wanted the authorities to come up with long term solutions to the ongoing problem.
It was last Wednesday that Minister of Education Ronald Jones had made it clear he was unhappy with the manner in which the recurring cow itch problem had been handled, while at the same time absolving his ministry of any blame for the problem.
The minister had criticized the job that had been done at the time, complaining that those hired had simply cut the vines and thrown them, along with the pods, on the ground, instead of burning them.
“When they clean it up and heap it up without burning it you are still going to have the pods exposed and it’s going to affect anything down wind of it. This seems to be the case in this instance and I would hope that they are able to bring the problem under complete control by this evening so that the children’s education is not further disrupted. Right now I am not pleased,” Jones had said.
However, this afternoon Adams was having none of the excuses, suggesting that the minister should have made a greater effort to have the problem resolved, given the fact that school is situated in his constituency.
“The school is in the minister’s constituency and many are at a loss as to why action is so convoluted and slow. This is now the third time the school has been closed and the problem remains unresolved, children are constantly itching and are forced to wear long sleeves clothes to school,” Adams said.
“Yesterday at the emergency meeting parents felt it first hand, some even had to leave because of the itch, so imagine children there for eight hours dealing with not only the cow itch but now the ash as a result of the burning,” she added.
In release through the Barbados Government Information Service tonight the Ministry of Education advised that class four pupils should report for classes at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology in Wildey, St Michael beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, March 14.
The ministry also advised that the remaining students would remain at home as the school would be closed for the remainder of the week to allow for the burning and removal of the cow itch, as well as for industrial cleaning.