NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Following a scabies outbreak last week, teachers and students at the Sybil Strachan Primary School on Carmichael Road are expected to return to school today.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands confirmed on Friday that there were between 18 and 23 confirmed cases of scabies at the school, and infected students are receiving treatment.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced last Thursday that the Sybil Strachan Primary School would be closed last Friday and teachers were asked to report to the T.G. Glover Junior High School, rather than to the school’s campus.
And while no reason for the closure was given, Director of Education Marcellus Taylor also confirmed that there were multiple cases of scabies reported by the school’s nurse.
Taylor said the school underwent a deeper cleaning last Friday and is expected to open today.
“Hopefully we intend for it to be open on Monday,” the Education Director told Eyewitness News Online.
Taylor said the internationally accepted protocols of how to deal with scabies involves wiping down desks with bleach, spraying Baygon and other over the counter pesticides.
Taylor said this cleaning protocol was being followed by the school when it was initially discovered that there was a scabies outbreak, but some teachers felt as if the process was not sufficient.
“They felt that the school needed a more broad-scale cleaning, and so it became an issue where some teachers were not accepting the established protocol, and so we decided – rather than letting it become a big issue – we would clean it,” Taylor said.
Taylor stressed that the Department of Education is concerned about the welfare of all of its stakeholders, including teachers and students.
He said the Department will not expose these persons to any health risks, and they should adhere to the advice given by health officials.
The Education Director said the school was, in fact, being cleaned for one week after the initial scabies outbreak was reported and everyone was “fine with the process” until last week when teachers felt as if a deeper cleaning was needed.
“If the health officials advise us that the protocol for addressing something like scabies is to simply wipe the desk down with bleach and to spray Baygon, and it does not pose any direct harm to students and teachers, then we take that advice,” Taylor said.
“There are people who create – I would call it mischief – by saying, ‘I don’t think it’s [the measures taken] good enough,’ but they have no expertise in the area to discredit what competent public officials have advised us to do, and this is becoming very much a concern because you must have some level of trust in the competent authorities to advise you.”
Taylor said in the spirit of goodwill, the Department of Education allowed students to take the day off last Friday to carry out the further cleaning that was requested.
Meanwhile, teachers at Sybil Strachan Primary participated in a sit-in last Thursday in the staff lounge, fearful of the contagious skin condition which is caused by mites.
Sybil Strachan Primary was the second government school to close last week due to health concerns.
Last week, reports of mould and other issues surfaced at the C.W. Sawyer Primary School on the Tonique Williams-Darling Highway. This led the MOE to shut the school down last Thursday and Friday (Feb. 7 and 8 ) for further investigation.
Giving an update on C.W. Sawyer, Taylor said the Department is presently awaiting a report from the Department of Environmental Health Services after a deep cleaning was conducted last week.
“I think mould was in one of the closets but generally the issue was more of a housekeeping issue like dirt and other things that made the area not as sanitary as it should be.
“So we were advised to do a deep cleaning and that should be completed, so we will soon get a report to say that it is all clear for occupation.”
Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) president Belinda Wilson declared last week that she is prepared to go to the International Labor Organization (ILO) or Amnesty International if working conditions for teachers around the country are not improved.