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Apr 13, 2010

Asbestos threaten health of PG students

st peterIn the deep south in Punta Gorda, residents are clamoring for assistance to ward off a health risk at the St. Peter Claver Primary School posed by its asbestos roof.  The school was built decades ago and the building has been condemned by health authorities because its asbestos roof is deteriorating with the passage of time, making it a health hazard.  Marion Ali visited the school today to find out how the problem is affecting the students and teachers.

Marion Ali, Reporting

This is how bad the asbestos situation was at Saint Peter Claver Roman Catholic Primary when we visited today – that is, one day after that same desk was wiped clean. Evidence of thick fibrous carcinogenic particles layered over the furniture in three of the buildings. It has caused skin and breathing problems among many of the children as the decades old buildings shed the material.  Saint Peter Claver has been the venue where thousands of Toledo residents have received their elementary education.  But the cancerous material has only become a problem, according to school Principal, Marion Nolberto, since it noticeably started to disintegrate about four years ago.

Marion Nolberto, Principal, St Peter Claver Primary

Marion Nolberto

Marion Nolberto

“We started by moving some of the children from Infant two, that’s the building directly behind me, that’s the worst of the three buildings and we relocated them to the standard six building.  The standard six then had to relocate into the Sam Daniels building but we were informed that that building is a CXC centre for students of Julian Cho from the said school as well as private candidates.  So we decided then that we had to move out our children from there and unfortunately we had to place them back into one of the asbestos buildings for the meantime.  You can’t even put anything on it because it leaks heavily but if you try to climb up there you would just come right down.  So these roofs are about to collapse anytime now.”

And that was what triggered the alarm.  Concerned parents and teachers were reluctant to subject the children and themselves to the cancer-causing agent.

Omar Requeña, Std 6 teacher

“This has been a problem from a long time ago but no one has actually set foot on it and tried to do something about it.  Over the past couple months with this dry weather and now rain coming, the flakes of the roof is coming down and actually you can see the sediments on the floor and this real hazardous to our children so we can’t go in there. “

Ray Martinez, Std 6 teacher, St Peter Claver Primary

“Definitely anything hazardous we’re strictly against and I have it at heart as well that I cannot do such a thing to the thirty-six kids under my care.”

Teacher, St Peter Claver Primary

“This morning the dust had all here burning me and everyday you can’t leave your things.  Look at dust.”

There was dust lining everything in the classrooms which were cleaned on Monday.  But while the health of the children is top priority, their education must also continue.  And that is where the Church and the government must strike common ground.  And Nolberto was unyielding with the demands he and the teachers are putting jointly on the Catholic management and the government.

Marion Nolberto

“If the stakeholders, the Ministry, the management, among others do not take our plan by the end of this week we will ask the children to stay home and not come back under this asbestos roofs.”

st peter 3The school has come up with an estimate for renovations to one of the buildings and there is a possibility that a company will donate another building.  And while the Ministry of Education has promised two more buildings from Holy Ghost School in Dangriga as a temporary solution, whether the problem can be fixed in time for classes by next Monday is another concern.

Joseph Cayetano, Assistant Local Mgr, Toledo Catholic Schools

“We’re trying to, we’ll try all our best because come Monday we will have to be relocated from SB Daniels.”

Marion Ali

“Do you foresee that classes will have to be suspended?”

Joseph Cayetano

“I hope not, I hope not.  We’ll try our utmost best that classes will not be suspended.  However, if someone reneges on what they should be doing, whether it should be doing, whether it be government or management then we’ll have to be faced with the closing down of the school.”

As the saying goes, time is the best test of fate.  We’ll see on Monday. Marion Ali for News Five.

St Peter Claver has an enrolment of nine hundred and twenty students, but only three hundred and fifty seven are exposed to the asbestos problem.  According to Advisor to the school, Fabian Cayetano, there is a five year plan to rebuild new concrete school buildings.  It will come at a cost of four point five million dollars and will be large enough to accommodate the growing school population.  We’d like to thank Will Maheia of the People’s National Party for providing some of the interviews and footage for this news item.

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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12 Responses for “Asbestos threaten health of PG students”

  1. Elgin Martinez says:

    Big up to Mr.Nolberto for taking a stands to ensure that these kids will be safe.Respect Barranco Man.I am very proud of your accomplishments. I know you would have made it to the top.This is your BARRANCO brother hitting you up from NY Peace.


    i hope patrick faber heard this petition from this kids health point of view. if he really wants to empower education make he be the first to donate some zinc roofing for this kids mein. now is when we want to see he do something positive. hope he reads this. help the kids patrick.

  3. maddy vandijk says:

    I find it is strange that parents drop their kids off at the school every day with a single complaint about that place.
    The school had this problem for years, not something that just happened last week. Why don’t parents come together in that community and help with building materials, etc.
    Why now, the children have been exposed to cancerous material for years.
    Look at the quality of that school, don’t blame the kids if they cannot learn anything.

  4. Esteban says:

    Asbestos? They do realize this can cause cancer right?! Something DOES need to be done.

  5. cg says:

    where is the education budget when you need it??? these are the things it should pay for. Just cut the very generous Barrow salary for a couple of months and pay for it. he can do without that lee money with all the “extra” work he does on the side right?

  6. melvin ivan says:


  7. teacher of St. Peter Claver says:

    We have been trying our best as teachers here at Claver, but it is difficult with complacent parents and a do nothing representative. Even the parish priest does not care as he is constructing a two storey building for his north american volunteers and others who care not at all about Belizeans. Why isn’t he (Fr. Dick) being questioned.

  8. BA says:

    Case and point people, take it from a Medical Practicioner in the making; In more than 20 years of research coupled with lawsuits, it has been scientifically proven that Asbestos does, and will cause cancer as long as you are inhaling it, which means even if you are in the building with a freshly installed asbestos roof.

  9. Dana Bradley says:

    it is so very sad that st.peter claver school is having asbestos problem. not something to take slowly.act fast the health of children are in your hands. i was once a teacher there and always had that specific worries in my mind. now here it is.Belize Gov. needs to act fast alongside the catholic management. please for the sake of the future generation.

  10. AP says:

    Why is it that the people of Toledo and in particular Punta Gorda not outraged about this exposure to asbestos? Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that typically affects the lining of the lungs, heart and abdomen. Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States, comprising around 3 percent of all cancer diagnoses. This cancer occurs about four times more frequently in men than in women and all forms of mesothelioma, except for benign mesothelioma, are invariably fatal.

    The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is generally reported as less than one year following diagnosis, however a patient’s prognosis is affected by numerous factors including how early the cancer is diagnosed and how aggressively it is treated.

    Also, the Prime Minister, the education department, the department of health, and the church has the responsibility to resolve this issue and to move the students from this location. Let’s remove this risk from the children the future of Belize.

  11. Marsha says:

    This is ridiculous!!!! Just ridiculous!!!! Some of us are just complaining instead of coming together and helping. Now we all know that most people go to our country for their own benefit.. They do not care about our well being. That is why we need to take care of each other, my fellow Belizeans, Garinagu … Now who can we trust? I would love to help with a little that I can give. Why are some people who are public figures and whom the community trust are so selfish? The government should be able to help our people.. I have to pray over this because I am frustrated..

  12. For Real says:

    I have given a monetary contribution. Im not all talk…What have YOU done?

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