WITU concerned about Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Primary School

Stuart Johnson President of the Windward Island Teachers Union (WITU)


Philipsburg, Sint Maarten — The President of the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) Stuart Johnson submitted a letter to the Honorable Minister of Education drs. Rudolph Samuel on Friday, March 4th, 2022 regarding the ongoing situation at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School.

In the letter, Johnson outlined, “on behalf of our members of the WITU and by extension our concern for all staff along with students I am sending you correspondence.

Below are a list of grievances as presented to me by several members of staff:

Physical Features of the school:

  1. Mold can be seen in many classrooms and only cleaning it will not help the situation.
  2. The physical feature of the school is depressing, unwelcoming, and not conducive to student learning and teacher instruction.
  3. Classrooms and other rooms are leaking when it rains. School materials are getting soaked and teachers need to repeatedly mop their classrooms. Applying canvas is not an option anymore.
  4. Railing for the steps leading to the office is required. (Safety precaution for teachers and students)
  5. The school is not wheelchair accessible. Ambulance personnel cannot drive in and access the injured. They need help to access persons located in various locations in the school.
  6. Cycle 2 students deserve a proper playground where they can do their physical education classes, play games, and sports. What is known to be a playground is now overrun with stagnant rainwater and drainage. Students cannot play in an area like this.
  7. Many doors need to be changed and windows are not closing due to broken latches.

Leonald Connor School has been fixed. When will our school be fixed as well? When will any of the public schools that were destroyed after Hurricane Irma get fixed? We understand that our school is located in the forgotten district known as Dutch Quarter, however, our teachers, students, and parents deserve a school that is inviting. We deserve a school that is welcoming. We deserve a school that looks and feels like a school. We deserve answers. We deserve better!”

The letter submitted from WITU outlined further, “The Health of Teachers and Students.”

Many teachers are physically sick due to the negative environment they are teaching in. Teachers are experiencing loss of voice, migraines (congestion), tightness of chest, sneezing, runny noses, dizzy spells, coughing, inflamed sinus, burning, and itchy eyes. A teacher has to constantly use the asthma pump at school, however, when at home the asthma pump isn’t needed. We have been told that “It is all in your head” and “It’s psychological”.

Many of the teachers believe that their symptoms are due to the overall unhealthy work environment. As stated above we can physically see the mold and unfortunately, mold can have dire effects on a person’s health as many of the teachers are experiencing. When our classes leak during heavy rainfall, the rainwater leaks through the walls. Mold needs somewhere damp for it to grow!

The WITU in its letter has outlined its expected actions, “On behalf of the staff through WITU, they are requesting an answer to this letter accompanied with an in person visit by the Honorable Minister of Education drs. R. Samuel no later than seven days after submission. We will not be accepting cleaning crews and walk-throughs. We do not want a new canvas for the roof. It has been FIVE years since Hurricane Irma. We want to see a plan with attainable actions showing the reconstruction works for our school.”

“The situation at the school has the full attention of the WITU and I will continue to closely monitor the ongoing situation. My sole mission is to ensure the wellbeing of both staff and students as we ensure quality education is truly prioritized in our country,” Johnson concluded.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School is a Public Education school located in the district of Dutch Quarter.