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May 14, 2014

Rodent infestation forces the closure of Ranchito Government school

Rodent infestations, unhealthy conditions and structural damages forced the closure of the Ranchito Government Primary School last week Monday. The institution reopened this Tuesday, but in a limited capacity. The three upper levels, Standards four, five and six, are still on unexpected holiday because the Central Building Authority has declared the school’s two main buildings unsafe. The principal and staff, parents and officials in the Ministry of Education have all been working overtime to rectify the situation. That includes moving students to the Community Centre located across the road. It’s not the best situation, but at this time there are no other options. Mike Rudon was in Ranchito today and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

On Tuesday, classes at the Ranchito Government Primary School resumed, but only for pre-school through Standard Three. The school was closed down last week after parents point-blank refused to send their children. The buildings have been overrun by rodents, including bats, and officials stated that the health of the students was at risk. That’s when parents and the school committee took matters into their own hands.

 

Yesenia Tun

Yesenia Tun, Principal, Ranchito Government School

“When school reopened on Monday, I relocated three classes because I was advised to move these children from the classes because of the health issues. And so the parents were concerned and asking why is it that I am moving the children and I had to explain to them. So we had a meeting and they wanted somebody from Ministry of Education to speak up on how we can address the issue beucase the meeting I called with parents was for them to help me find places to relocate them. And so the meeting was held on Monday; we had Miss Lawrence from the Ministry of Health and she was here and answered and addressed the issue with the parents about the health hazards with the bat infestation. Well it was decided by the parents that they will not send their children until something is being done to address the issue.”

 

E’Jahmor Lopez, Education Center Manager, Corozal

“Because of the infestation and the challenges etc, there were some health challenges and they were the ones that brought this to our attention and together we looked at how we could find a solution and they came on board. Many of them volunteered their services—dealing with the cleaning, the painting. The ministry provided the materials and that is the kind of collaboration that we want in terms of moving education forward.”

 

That got the attention of the Ministry of Education, and that resulted in immediate extermination of rodents, disinfecting and painting of the affected classrooms. But while that is one problem…there is another. These main buildings were constructed forty-two years ago. They have been declared structurally unsafe, and closed down.

 

 Yesenia Tun

“There are days that we are in the classroom and the ceiling when it leaks, the little pieces start falling down and I believe that children inhale these and it affects them as well. I have children who have been sick, teachers who have been sick, but we have never linked anything. As I mentioned to some people before, the teachers have done their best; they scrape the walls whenever we start classes every year, they paint the class and do it as an environment conducive to learning. But then still when it is the rainy season, like last year, it affected our enrolment, the attendance because children didn’t use to come. They know already that on that side, the ceiling leaks a lot and it is not only one hole, sometimes classrooms have three holes and the children would hurry move them so that they don’t get sick.”

 

E’ Jahmor Lopez

“We do know that there are some challenges with the roof; it leaks when it rains. We look at some structural issues in terms of columns where the steel is exposed—it is oxidized, it is corroded. And again, I am not an engineer…we were advised that the buildings are unsafe.”

 

What that means is that upper level students have nowhere to go, at least not just yet. The plan is to move them over to the Community Center just across the road. But that building, is also not up to standard, and so is undergoing a necessary retrofitting.

 

Yesenia Tun

“They will be relocated at the community center, but they can’t be relocated because bathroom facilities are not available as yet; that is the only problem that is keeping us back right now. But hopefully Monday for sure, they will have classes on Monday. By Monday everything will be set. All the teachers have gone, from yesterday they are cleaning up, setting up the chairs, the partitions and everything. The bathrooms are the only things that are keeping us back, but by Monday I think that it will be ready. We had the ministry personnel, [he] came this morning and they are giving us the support and they said they will do their best to have it ready for Monday.”

 

The move is temporary, which in this case means the rest of this school year and the next – at least until new buildings can be constructed. With the end of the school year and exams approaching, teachers at the school have had to make necessary adjustments to ensure that students are not adversely affected.

 

Yesenia Tun

E’Jahmor Lopez

“I met with my staff last week, we had a long discussion last week Wednesday and we decided that our exams were going to be the second week in June, but because of what is happening, we brought it up to the next week. So regarding four, five and six, the teachers have met with me and we have discussed also with that since they are missing another week. So they will be giving up their…we dismiss at three-thirty, so they won’t be dismissing three-thirty; they will be dismissing at four o’clock. So yes, I believe we will be covering the curriculum; all that we have planned for this year will be covered. It won’t affect the children in any way.”

 

The dilapidated condition of the buildings is easily visible to the naked eye, so how did it get to this point where the school had to be closed?

 

E’ Jahmor Lopez

“The principal is the manager on the ground; the teachers are the managers on the ground in the classrooms. It is their responsibility to do their observation, to do reports, submit those reports, make recommendations, etc. I am not certain where the ball was dropped in this situation, but once it was brought to our attention, we have done something about it.”

 

Mike Rudon for News Five.

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1 Response for “Rodent infestation forces the closure of Ranchito Government school”

  1. scared of belize says:

    Shame shame shame

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