BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, FEBRUARY 26TH 2014 (CUOPM) – Minister of Education, Sen. the Hon. Nigel Carty has given as assurance that the safety, security, and advancement of the children and teachers at the Basseterre High School will always be the highest priority for the Ministry of Education
In a statement on Wednesday following what he said were activities by Dr. Phillip-Browne and Mr. Ron Collins, President of the St. Kitts Teachers Union on Tuesday, Mr. Carty said the Ministry of Education is viewing current actions of Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne “as unprofessional, irresponsible and deliberately provocative.”
Pertaining to information that has been revealed to the Ministry of Education on the activities of Mr. Ron Dublin-Collins, Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne and a few members of the Basseterre High School, Minister Carty said it was important to deal with the matter “because the plans which have been set in motion by these persons and their allies have serious implications for the education of our children.”
He recalled that in November of 2012, the Ministry of Education had reason to invite a CARIRI, a professional investigative group out of Trinidad and Tobago, to conduct air quality tests at the BHS because concerns had been raised in that regard on the western campus of the school in particular.
“In relation to a variety of gases and harmful dust tested for at the school, the results showed that BHS was normal and safe. This had been our greatest concern, hence we were happy and relieved to learn of these results. An outdoor air quality check was also made for bacteria and mold. The results of these tests as well were normal,” said the education minister, who added that there were three labs which had been closed for several months.
“They had been abandoned and had been left to gather dust, hence the tests showed that they had high levels of bacteria and mold at the time of testing. The researchers agreed that no other result could have been expected given the abandoned state of these rooms,” said Mr. Carty.
He further stated that shortly thereafter, the Ministry set about to completely renovate the western campus and do other renovation works throughout the BHS. Labs were completely gutted from ceiling to floor; classrooms and other learning spaces were fully renovated. Labs were sanitized on multiple occasions. Bathrooms were refurbished and fitted with new fixtures; and septic systems were cleaned and renovated.
“The end of term report for December 2013 presented by the education officer responsible suggested no indication of any serious concern,” disclosed Mr. Carty.
He stated that in January 2014, when Ministry officials met with the management of the school and representatives of the PTA, it was reported that five teachers of a staff complement of 80 were reporting symptoms of illness.
“We were further told that Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne had seen these 5 patients and had drawn conclusions about the school that were contrary to those arrived at through scientific research,” said Education Minister Carty, who added that the full investigative report has been made available to the school and the public.
According to Minister Carty, a medical doctor from the Ministry of Health, who was present at the meeting in January, reported that Dr. Thelma Philip-Browne had been asked to provide information that would allow the Ministry of Health to better understand how she arrived at her conclusions.
“Dr Thelma Phillip-Browne knows and is being reminded that under the laws of St. Kitts and Nevis, she or any other medical doctor is obligated to provide to the Ministry of Health any evidence of provisional or definitive public health concern. Yet, as of today, February 25, 2014, the information requested of Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne has not been provided to the Ministry,” said Minister Carty.
He reported also that the management of the BHS has been asked to provide the names of other medical professionals who may have had similar concerns as Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne, so that the Ministry of Health may contact them for any necessary investigation.
“At today’s date, no other medical doctor has been named,” Minister Carty disclosed.
He said the Ministry of Health has indicated that reported symptoms are neither unusual nor unexpected, and they are in fact consistent with common allergies that are prevalent anywhere in the world.
“It has come to light that plans are afoot to move the BHS into a strike. Yesterday (Monday) afternoon, a meeting was held at the offices of Mr. Ron Dublin-Collins at the BHS to which Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne was invited and at which meeting Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne set out to scare the teachers who were present by telling them that the school was contaminated,” said Minister Carty.
“Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne’s conclusions are baseless, erroneous and deliberate. They are contrary to findings of CARIRI. Again, Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne has failed to provide to the Ministry of Health the information that has been requested, and which by law she ought to provide, if that information in truth actually exists,” said Minister Carty.
He said that the Ministry understands further that meetings have been planned with parents and teachers at which Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne has been invited to speak to yield a desired result.
“A number of teachers have reported that they are being pressured into facilitating a strike. This is a concern for all of us,” said Mr. Carty, who added that the smooth operations of the BHS and the course of the children’s education are under threat.
“As Minister of Education, I confirm that there is no justifiable pretext for these irresponsible actions that are designed to achieve certain ends that are not related to our children’s education. The BHS is a school of which we are very proud. Indeed, the recent investments have made the BHS the best public school in St. Kitts,” said Minister Carty.
He said that a resolution of any outstanding issues at the BHS requires the input and support of professionals who have no other interest, real or perceived, with respect to the BHS other than the safety and security, and the education of those at the school.
“Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne by virtue of the facts herein revealed and based upon her public stance on other fronts, ought not to be involved in any resolution at BHS in the way she has been to date. The same can be said of her brother, Mr. Clecton Phillip, who has been working overtime to exploit the BHS for less than genuine causes. Rather, we would wish to work with other persons in the professional and wider community to advance the cause of our institutions of learning,” said Minister Carty.
He assured all that the safety, security, and advancement of the children and teachers will always be the highest priority for the Ministry of Education.
“I wish to use this medium to thank our nation’s teachers for their contribution to the development of our children. I also use this medium to thank the Hon. Marcella Liburd, Minister of Health, and the Hon. Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Earl Asim Martin, Minister of Public Works, and staff of their respective ministries for their unswerving support for our educational institutions. With their assistance, the Ministry of Education has been able to implement the most expansive and most effective school improvement and maintenance programme ever in the history of our nation. This we are very proud of and will maintain,” said the Education Minister.
CUOPM notes that Dr. Thelma Phiilip-Browne is an activist for the opposition PLP party and has appeared on the PLP and UNITY platforms. Her brother Mr. Clecton Phillip is also an executive member of the PLP and activist and spokesman for the opposition Unity construct.