Portable cabin classrooms in Bahrain 'a health risk'
Manama, April 17, 2014
Thousands of Bahraini government school pupils are having their health put at risk by studying in unhygienic and insect-infested portable cabins, according to councillors.
The Central Municipal Council is now demanding investment in proper facilities, claiming the temporary classrooms are "unsafe, unhealthy and unclean," said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
It alleges the Education Ministry did not spend BD60 million ($158.3 million) between 2011 and 2012, but says the cash should have been used to replace an estimated 400 temporary classrooms nationwide.
"The ministry returned BD60 million from its allocated budget for 2011-2012, which it didn't spend on intended projects and programmes," claimed council services and public utilities committee chairman Ahmed Al Ansari during yesterday's weekly meeting.
"For several years there have been complaints about portable cabins being used as classrooms at government schools across the country and there have been promises they would be removed, but unfortunately that has not been the case.
"Those cabins are unsafe, unhealthy and unclean and the biggest example is my son, who got sick last November and missed school for a week after being forced to study in a flooded cabin, which soaked his trousers.
"Another student I know had a large insect crawl up to his neck without the boy noticing it and it was just one of many insects breeding in those cabins."
He said students were often unable to focus on lessons in the portable cabins, which allegedly leak when it rains and become stifling hot when temperatures rise.
"The cabins are not connected to central air-conditioning and have two window ACs, so people can imagine how hot it is in a class of 40 students," added Al Ansari.
"It is also difficult to focus when the teacher or other students make noise while walking around or moving chairs and tables.
"The ministry has a maintenance department besides co-ordinating with the Works Ministry, but it seems nothing is being done in relation to those cabins."
Council technical committee chairman Yousif Al Sabbagh accused the ministry of not co-ordinating with councillors, despite a flood of complaints from parents.
"I call them for appointments and they come up with excuses," he said. "Even my cousin, who is a senior official, told me he was busy with a festival for the ministry last week and would call back, but that didn't happen.
"There was an urgent case when a girls' school not connected to the sewage network flooded and I wanted action. Until today nothing has been done and the poor students continue to suffer.
"If it is an MP they would clear their schedules and serve him as if he was sitting in a restaurant or cafŽ with tea. Whatever he wanted, they would give promises with smiles - but again with nothing being done."
Muharraq Municipal Council technical committee chairman Khaled Bu Onk, who has also been campaigning on the issue, said there were around 400 portable cabins being used as classrooms across Bahrain.
"I have been following the situation with those cabins closely for the past few years and I can assure everyone that they are dangerous and improper for education," he said.
"Portable cabins are temporary and not permanent, but they are being treated as if they will remain forever. The schools have had them for many years without classrooms being built to replace them.
"In one school in Galali there are 10 cabins being used as classrooms, outnumbering permanent classrooms, and a kindergarten today has more classrooms than that school." The Education Ministry was unavailable for comment. - TradeArabia News Service