RADHICA DE SILVA
With physical school tentatively carded to reopen from October 1, parents of pupils attending Palo Seco Government Secondary are calling on the government to fix a broken bridge in front of their school as soon as possible, before someone gets hurt.
Since the bridge collapsed on September 3, staff have been parking their vehicles on the SS Erin Road before walking 200 metres over the precarious bridge to get to the compound. The school has 522 pupils and 34 teachers.
When Guardian Media visited the bridge for a second time in two weeks on Monday, the bridge has sunk even further. A gaping hole was seen on one side of the bridge.
Public Relations Officer of the school’s PTA Ashley Mark told Guardian Media that it was risky to have Form One students crossing the bridge to register for classes.
The principal Devanand Sinanan arranged for Form One registration to be done at a nearby school on Monday.
“The principal had to load the photocopying machine, student folders in his car and then drive to Palo Seco Primary school where they set up an office in the lobby to facilitate registration,” Mark said.
She added, “Our children have been home since last year March. Now that we are on the verge of returning to school has made the sacrifice to vaccinate our children, we are now faced with another situation where the bridge is unfit for use.”
Mark explained that over the past 10 days, school officials have been pleading to the authorities to repair the bridge which is preventing vehicular access to school but no one has taken responsibility for the bridge.
Meanwhile, community activist Victor Roberts said the school floods regularly. He said he too has been lobbying for assistance without any headway.
“This is the sixth time that the school has flooded out for this year and no one is taking responsibility for this bridge. The Regional Corporation has said the bridge falls under the purview of the Ministry of Works, but the Ministry says it belongs to Heritage Petroleum but when contacted Heritage said it was responsible for the road and not the bridge.
Another parent Kenon Gross said they were concerned about the safety of the students and staff.
“We need assistance to get the bridge repairs. We want someone to take responsibility so that our children could return to school as soon as possible,” he said.
Last week the Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby- Dolly said she was aware of the concerns at the school and had referred the matter to the Ministry of Rural Development.
Contacted for comment on Monday, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kazim Hosein confirmed that his Ministry will do repairs on the bridge.
He said a team from his Ministry visited the bridge last week, adding that his ministry was treating the matter with urgency.
“This is a serious issue because it involves the lives of children so we will be working to have this project done,” he added.