The cow itch infestation which recently forced the closure of Blackman and Gollop Primary School and Thelma Berry Nursery is about to get a lot worse, according to the union representing sugar workers.
The Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) today said due to poor husbandry practices as a consequence of reduced working hours for field hands, many of the island’s cane fields are overrun by the pesky vines. Acting Deputy General Secretary Dwaine Paul said with the season scheduled to begin later this month, schools and homes near these fields would have a tough time coping with the itch.
“We have heard people complaining about cow itch in the schools but the entire sugar industry is going to be inundated with cow itch this crop because of the poor husbandry practices engaged in during the year. This goes for whether or not the field is in canes or not because there is no programme in place to address cow itch,” Paul told the media this morning following a meeting with disgruntled sugar workers at the BWU headquarters at Solidarity House.
His prediction came on the same day the Christ Church school and nursery re-opened, following a three-week closure due to cow itch.
Parents this morning expressed relief that their children were finally able to return to the classroom, after three attempts by the Ministry of Education to address the problem, believed to have emanated from a former sugar plantation opposite the school.
Heaps of the vine were burnt last week after the school was again closed on March 7, prompting Minister of Education Ronald Jones to criticize 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.
However, Paul cautioned that the Staple Grove, Christ Church educational institution might not be out of the woods yet.
He explained workers were concerned that the impact of the spores would be a lot more far reaching this time round, given the level of infestation in the fields, as well as the high winds currently affecting the island.
“So they are going to get more cow itch because when the crop is cut, it is going to be airborne as the different harvesters start going through the fields. So I can’t promise the school children and the citizens of Barbados that they are going to get away from it anytime soon,” the workers’ representative said, while claiming the Ministry of Agriculture would be responsibly for failing to nip the problem in the bud.
“Cow itch is best treated green, not when it is dry. Let us have an incentive programme to get these workers to go out and eradicate this cow itch when it is in its most vulnerable stage,” Paul recommended.