Augier Parents Continue Protest

When will the Minister of Education, Arsene Janes, and other officials explain to the students of Augier what their next move will be?

The PTA of the Augier Primary School in Vieux Fort is into a second week of protest action aimed at a solution to an old problem affecting the wellbeing of students. This week, they have taken to the streets baring placards.  And still, their cries continue to be met with deft silence from the Ministry of Education, which is supposedly responsible for the school.
On Monday May 30, 2011, parents took to the streets near the school in an act of demonstration, to bring to the attention of the public the plight of their children. According to the parents, their children are being made to sit, on a daily basis, in fly infested classrooms and to bare the unbearable stench emanating from nearby poultry farms. Over the years, some parents have sought transfers for the children whom they claim have taken ill due to the conditions at the schools. But some have not been so lucky and after several meetings in years past, with one major one with Ministry of Education and other Government officials culminating last year, and several promises made to relocate the farm, the parents are now at odds with the inaction by Government.                 “This is not about Government, party or politics, because this problem has been there now for more than five years, it is about the welfare of our Children, we are living in Saint Lucia. So why should we be made to feel as if, if we do not live in Castries or Cap Estate or that since our school is not Convent or Dame Pearlette, that no one is taking us on?” one parent asked.
The STAR also spoke with the Principal of the school Mrs Maryanne Jn Charles on Tuesday who acknowledged Monday’s protest action.
“Well the PTA organized this protest action, it was just on Monday and now they are planning to meet again on Wednesday to decide the way forward,” Jn Charles stated. Asked whether she had received any calls from the Ministry of Education or anything in writing addressing the situation the school principal replied, “no, nothing.”
PTA member Jason Mondesir confirmed that the PTA would be meeting Wednesday adding “we really want this matter to be addressed; we really need to see some improvement in the conditions under which our children have to learn.”
It is now eight days since students of the Augier Primary School in Augier Vieux Fort have been kept out of school by their parents a direct response to the Ministry of Education’s lack of response to a letter asking that their concerns be met.  The letter in question was addressed to Arsene James, Minister of Education, Dr Rufina Frederick Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Mr Marcus Edward Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education and headed “Relocation of Chicken Farms Near School.”
It read in part: “This letter serves as a formal notice of our intent to take action due to your failure and lack of will to implement the policies and resolutions taken during the meeting held October 13, 2010.”
The letter from the PTA went on to outline their demands for which they anticipated a response in five days. The five days has come and gone and there has been no response, dialogue, call, e-mail, letter or visit from any Ministry official, far less those addressed in the letter.
For years now teachers, parents and students have been complaining about the stench emanating from farms near the Augier Combined School. The PTA has protested before, written letters before and now seems to be running out of options. Last October the Ministry of Agriculture promised to relocate the farms saying that lands had already been identified for the move. The STAR learnt last week that the farms and the school are located on NDC lands and were leased to the farmers, who comprise at least three siblings. In a previous article one of the farmers had openly agreed to move, saying that she was eagerly awaiting government to relocate her. However another sibling it has been reported has threatened an injunction on the Government.
The PTA says that today (Wednesday) they will consult with all in attendance at a special meeting to plan their next move. Meanwhile the students remain home, deprived of an education and with no answer forthcoming from the Ministry of Education as to when their problem will be addressed.
Dr Stephen King who was the chief medical officer when the problem first arose feels that this problem should have been addressed a long time ago. “We keep talking about what we should do for our young people, what we need to do for our kids and when it comes to showing that in decisive ways we fail them,” King said.
Last week Minister of Agriculture Ezekiel Joseph acknowledged the problem, adding that his Ministry had not reached the point of having the farmers removed. Still no word from The Ministry of Education on a plan to address the problem.

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