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Mar 29, 2019

What’s Going on at Catholic Management in Dangriga?

In recent months, Sacred Heart and Holy Angels Roman Catholic primary schools saw students going home because the facilities were in disrepair. Last October, Sacred Heart had to close down for over a week because the restrooms were not functioning and posed a serious health hazard to the students and the wider community. As we had found out, the cries for help from the management which is located next door to the school went unanswered.  Fast forward to today; Holy Angels is in the same position. Its buildings are in complete mess and the staff says that their cries also fell on deaf ears. The reason both school have called out the management is because infrastructure and maintenance are their responsibilities. News Five aired the first Holy Angels story on March thirteenth. That same day, we called on the management but until this week, we were able to reach the local manager. Reporter Andrea Polanco reports.

 

Rodolfo Garcia

Rodolfo Garcia, Local Manager Catholic School (Stann Creek)

“You will say that is your responsibility – but no that is not my responsibility. We have people who work there. We have a principal, vice-principal and a staff of teachers.”

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Those are the words of Rodolfo Garcia. He is a priest and the local manager for the Catholic Schools in Stann Creek.  The issue he is referring to is the decaying infrastructure at Holy Angels Primary School in Pomona. This issue is not new – it has been happening for years and Principal Sadie Asevedo says that it was reported to the Catholic Management in Dangriga a long time ago.

 

Andrea Polanco

“Management is claiming that they only became aware of this issue in 2019 – like three months ago?”

 

Sadie Asevedo

Sadie Asevedo, Principal, Holy Angels Roman Catholic School

“No. I think it was about the second or third year we have informed the management about our situation.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And nothing was done since then?”

 

Sadie Asevedo

“No. Nothing was done since then.”

 

But Garcia claims he didn’t know anything about it and that is why he showed up only two weeks ago.

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, now you disagree with what the teachers have said – that this is an issue that has been happening – they brought it to the attention of the management?”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“Several years ago – No! Two months ago – yes.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, you are saying that they are lying?”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“No. I am telling you what I am – what I went and I see and we proposed something. That they are saying lying that is something you are saying.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“But you are saying that they never brought it to your attention?”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“I am saying that I went two months ago when I received the letter. That they are lying is something you are saying.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And that is why I am asking you because you said they never brought to your attention.”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“No. I am not saying that. Do not put words in my mouth something that I am not saying.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“I am asking you! So, it is just in 2018 you learnt of this issue?”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“Yes that is the truth.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, the principal never brought it to your attention before?”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“Before? No.”

 

And so the catholic management’s contribution to the sixty-thousand dollars estimate for the repairs is two thousand dollars. Off the record, Garcia insisted that he gave the school three thousand dollars – a claim he also made during a Sunday mass.

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“I did already what I can do. I give three thousand dollars. That is the thing that I can.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“He is claiming he has given three thousand dollars, through the management, to Holy Angels. How much money did you receive?”

 

Sadie Asevedo

“I received a cheque of only two thousand dollars. I could show you the cheque. That was all that we received.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Did he commit any other funds, any at all?”

 

Sadie Asevedo

“Not that I know of.”

 

But as this cheque with Garcia’s signature shows – the school only received two thousand dollars. The staff and the parents have taken offense to this. That two thousand dollar check represents only about three percent of the sixty thousand dollars estimate. And the reason they are up in arms is because infrastructure and maintenance fall directly under the responsibility of the catholic management – which Garcia leads in Stann Creek. The deplorable conditions of these classrooms didn’t happen overnight – this is years of abandonment. And if these conditions were addressed over the years – children wouldn’t be falling through wooden floors and subjected to unsanitary classrooms and are now out for one week.

 

Andrea Polanco

“Students are out of school. The thing is that this problem shows a clear line of where there was neglect – perhaps the school has been abandoned so to speak.”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“How do you know that? How do you know that?”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Sir, from my conversations with the principal – they have indicated as much. And I am not just saying the principal – the teachers as well that they have raised this issue  and you as the manager – didn’t do anything?”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“Who works there? I don’t share your opinion – who was the first person who responded there in Pomona ? Us!”

 

Andrea Polanco

“The two thousand dollars cheque you mean?”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“It’s the thing that we could do.”

 

And while Local Manager doesn’t want to acknowledge that he has a responsibility, the Minister of Education pointed it out.

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education

“The commitments of the management, the churches in that regard are for the infrastructure and other things that are needed.  We have to insist as well that the church does its part, since they are the managing authority, in order to ensure that this kind of situation does not happen. It is not only rescuing a situation that has gone so terribly bad. Our schools require constant maintenance, you know- painting of the buildings and minor repairs. It only gets this bad when we don’t do anything for many, many years. And that is a practice that many in the country, including the government does not practice very well.”

 

But Garcia seems to have his own personal views on how these schools are managed and who should speak out against the neglect. He claims that the school is more “public” than it is catholic making this connection because not all the parents attend Catholic Church service. He called out the parents who protested – but the conditions of the school shouldn’t have anything to do with one’s religion.

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“I think the communities need to learn to care about where their children are going to receive the education. It is true that they have the name Catholic Public Schools but sometimes are more ‘public schools’ than catholic. In this case of Pomona, how many catholic families do we have there? That is what you should get the report of how many catholic we have right there.  I saw your other report and the people who spoke in your report – I have never seen them in the church, in any mass, in any celebration, attending anything.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Sir, so is it a requirement for them that they must attend church? That they must fulfill all of these catholic obligations for them to…?”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“The schools are catholic or not? The schools are catholic or not?”

 

Andrea Polanco

“They are catholic.”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“Ok. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“But are they required by law? Are they required by law? Sir, I attended a catholic school and I am not catholic.”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“Take the conclusion what your common sense will tell you about it. Take for example; if I was Adventist I would think that it would be good that my parents give me an Adventist education.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“But that is your view – that is a personal view. Sir, so what you are saying then – is that students or these parents – do not have a voice because they are not catholic?”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“No. No. No. I am not saying that. Think what your common sense will say.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So then what are you saying – this has nothing to do with common sense – let’s not be patronizing here. There is no need for that.”

 

Rodolfo Garcia

“Think whatever you want to think.”

 

And that is the Local Manager of the Catholic Schools in the Stann Creek District. During this interview, he evaded most questions, pointed fingers at everyone else except the catholic management, and then attempted to mock me, to patronize me, and to intimidate me. He assembled a small group of his parishioners to sit during the interview where they interrupted my questions, taunted me and they cheered him on. He never tried to silence them – but I did. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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