Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, on Wednesday, said he was “highly dissatisfied” that part of Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS) has been without electricity for months.
He said that he had spoken “very firm” with the relevant state agencies after he learnt of the situation this week and it is being addressed.
The school is being housed in one of the two temporary campuses at the decommissioned airport at Arnos Vale, while its main buildings in Richmond Hill undergo repairs.
Last weekend, a number of parents of students attending the school contacted iWitness News, complaining that some classrooms and the IT lab have been without electricity since last October.
With the second term of the school year underway, the parent of a Form 5 student told iWitness News she was especially concerned about her child’s preparation for her school-leaving examinations in May and June.
Speaking on NBC Radio, Gonsalves said he learnt this week that a section of the school did not have electricity.
“Well, you know, I was very firm with those in the state agencies — I use that term broadly — who are responsible for this,” the prime minister said.
“I had to speak firmly to make clear that I’m highly dissatisfied with that. But they’re working on it. … I was upset, too, that one of the state agencies which should have informed me, they didn’t inform me.”
Gonsalves said that sometimes public servants “among themselves think they can solve issues.
“But if a week passes and the issue is not solved, if there’s a bottleneck, I’m a good clearer of bottlenecks. Everybody knows that. That’s part of my work,” the prime minister said.
“Because if, for instance, you can’t identify clearly the actual source of the fault, well, rewire the whole place. We’re not an NGO. And if the person you send couldn’t figure it out, there are other people. You don’t just scratch your head, metaphorically.”
He, however, said that the issue was being sorted out, adding that he would find out how it was progressing.
“I had to tell one man that this is the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, not an NGO. Students in one section don’t have electricity; that’s a matter of great importance,” Gonsalves said.
The temporary wooden campuses were constructed in mid-2021 and the one that houses TSSS was previously the temporary location of the St. Vincent Grammar School, which was being repaired at the time.
“You build a building for over $2 million; you going try and penny pinch in dealing with that electrical problem?” the prime minister said. “What kinda sense that mek?
“Well, I could only talk plainly. The number of years I’ve been in this business and the number of runs I have on the tins, I should be allowed a little leeway to leh me tongue set free. Not to be abusive, not any way to hurt anybody but just to speak firmly and clearly. And the people would expect me to do that.”
He said the “teams are good”, adding that there are a lot of capable people in the state sector.
“A simple thing can happen. A man who may head a unit goes on holidays or sick leave and during the time they on sick leave or holidays, a week, two weeks or whatever it is, three weeks, the thing just slide, waiting for somebody to come back. How it could work like that,” Gonsalves said, adding that he was not saying this had happened in this case.
“Sometimes I call – ‘Well, the person in charge gone on sick leave.’ I said, ‘Yes. So?’
“I don’t understand this. The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines doesn’t come to a halt if I am out of the country. It continues very actively.”