Given the publication of multiple videos on social networks in which students denounce the poor state of the public schoolsthe secretary of Education deparment, Yanira Raices Vegaacknowledged this Friday that the deficiencies in various schools persist, but assured that there is work underway – by “blocks” – to optimize them.
“As I have always said, we are in a period of rehabilitating our schools; We would like it to be faster than what is being done. However, it is recognized that skilled labor, we do not have that, that we have a limited number of contractors. So the jobs have to be done in blocks; in a first number of schools, then the next block, and so on,” he indicated in an interview with The new day.
According to Raices Vega, Infrastructure repair work has been completed in 67% of the 856 schools. The short column work is 81% completed, the painting work is 75% complete, and the sealing work is 70% complete, he said.
About the Luis Felipe Crespo Higher School, in Camuywhere students published a video on TikTok evidencing the poor condition of a bathroom, the secretary admitted “that there were some deficiencies,” but denied that it was of such magnitude, and assured that she has the necessary materials and equipment.
In the video, which went viral, the students showed that, in the bathroom, the doors of several cubicles were missing and others had their doors closed with padlocks. They also denounced the lack of toilet paper and mirrors, vandalized sinks and soap dispensers, walls with profanity and floors with stains and garbage.
“I told them to put the soap and paper (in the bathroom), because those of us who studied in public school know that soap and paper were suitable for other things. There was the other one who came and used up all the soap, and made all the foam, and all the foam came out of the toilet. And there are times when they use the paper and burn it, set it on fire. (…) The students know it, they go to the office, look for the paper and go to the bathroom,” said Raices Vega.
Education and Public Buildings Authority (AEP) described the state of the bathroom in controversy at the Camuy school as “vandalism,” and the secretary mentioned that, on one of the walls, the message was read “if they paint it again, I will write it again.” However, when questioned by The new day about the poor state of other campuses, evidenced in new videos shared by students on TikTok, he noted: “I am not going to fall into looking for blame”.
“Since I arrived (to the Head of Education), on July 10, 2023, I have been looking for my students to have the best infrastructure, for their schools to be fixed,” he explained.
Since the publication of the Camuy school video, others have emerged in municipalities such as Caguas and Mayaguez. In the case of the Caguas vocational school, Raices Vega mentioned that it has an allocation of more than $25 million for improvements and that they are in the design phase, and then move on to construction.
Meanwhile, the video recorded at a school in Mayaguez shows broken desks and chairs. In that case, the secretary stated that they are in the process of changing the desks in all schools to tables and chairs. He indicated that they are devising how to collect the desks.
The situation in Camuy is repeated in the other videos shared on networks by students. They also show campuses with mountains of garbage, flooded hallways, unpainted and cracked walls and areas, and closed water fountains.
Raices Vega visited the school in Camuy on Wednesday, where he spoke with students about their responsibility to keep the structure in good condition. “Young people have to do their part once the work is done and take care of the infrastructure,” he emphasized.
On the other hand, rejected that retaliation is being taken against the students of that campus, at a time when a student, identified as the president of the graduating class and who published the original video, has alleged that the school administration has canceled several activities that were scheduled.
The secretary also rejected that this student was suspended for two weeks, as has been commented by users on social networks. In passing, she pointed out that “You have to guide the students, because you can’t make TikTok (videos) during class hours”.