Stronger measures needed to monitor flea-affected schools – SVGTU head
Oswald Robinson - Teachers union president
May 7, 2024

Stronger measures needed to monitor flea-affected schools – SVGTU head

Representatives of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) are questioning when the Ministry of Education will establish proper monitoring procedures for the two schools constantly affected by a flea infestation.

The St Vincent Girls’ High School, and the Thomas Saunders Secondary School, both of which are located temporarily on the tarmac of the decommissioned E.T. Joshua Airport in Arnos Vale have been battling a flea infestation from as far back as 2022. The problem resulted in the closure of the schools in late April, 2024, after students and staff were complaining of being bitten by the pests.

President of the SVGTU, Oswald Robinson, speaking on the Teachers Talk radio programme said it was evident that the schools had not been properly monitored since the issue first came to light.

“We want to hold the authorities accountable for this.”

The schools were closed from Tuesday April 23, 2024, with the return date set for Friday April, 26.

Robinson revealed that the union was called to meet with teachers and offer guidance on how to manoeuvrer the situation.

He said he advised them of the International Labour Organisation standards for occupational safety which states that a worker has the right to remove himself from any environment which is deemed to be unsafe or unhealthy.

The issue appears to stem from a large dog population located in the area. Minister of Education, Curtis King, who provided an update during the period of closure said that the government has made several appeals to owners to keep their dogs at home.

A pest control plan was implemented which included fumigating the schools’ surroundings with pesticides.

Robinson said that previous attempts to rid the schools of the infestation were clearly unsuccessful.

“We were told the poison that was used was Demon. We don’t know how strong they were using it in terms of the concentration, and if they were putting it at the areas, because it appears based on what persons were saying that it doesn’t seem as if the poison was being sprayed under the building.”

Robinson said during a follow up visit last Thursday, he was informed that “things are working out” however, there was evidence that the problem has not been totally resolved.

“When I spoke to the students, they were still being bitten by the fleas,” he said.

He stressed that if staff and students are to be wholly comfortable in their surroundings then schools need to be monitored regularly and by various Ministries.

“This is not a one Ministry thing.”