By INÊS LOPES [email protected]
Security concerns, budgetary cuts and “unbalanced” school meals are some of the issues raised by parents of schoolchildren in the Lagoa council in an open letter to the Mayor.
In the letter, also sent to the Algarve Resident, parents’ association APELA says it is “outrageous” that schools are running with a shortage of support staff, leading to “a sense of insecurity”, due to cuts in the education budget.
APELA encompasses parents of children attending public pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in the council.
At a recent meeting of the association, several parents, including some from the foreign community living in the council, spoke up about different issues they believed Lagoa Câmara should be addressing “urgently”.
They said it was “appalling” that schools were employing temporary support staff who lacked the profile to meet the needs of schoolchildren.The open letter also highlighted the meagre wages paid to these employees – €3 an hour – leading to a lack of motivation.
APELA added that budget cuts in education are placing the “healthy development of our children at risk”.
Lagoa Mayor José Inácio Eduardo told the Algarve Resident: “In the Lagoa council, the hiring of school support staff is the responsibility of the Regional Directorate of Education, which falls under the Ministry of Education.
“The Câmara is, however, aware of the problems relating to the shortage
of support staff and so, every year, it provides schools with additional funding for the hire of temporary employees.”
A British resident, who asked not to be named and whose child attends primary school in Lagoa, told the Algarve Resident: “The lack of competence of support staff at my son’s school worries me a lot as well as the lack of care for what children eat at meal times.”
Another issue raised by APELA has to do with school meals and their “lack of vital nourishment”. It stated: “Students are encouraged to purchase unhealthier foods to make up for the little portions they are served in school meals.”
Lagoa Mayor said: “This is not at all the case. The school meals fulfil all the guidelines established by the Ministry of Education. A nutrition technician prepares the school meal plans as well as overseeing food preparation. School meal plans are also approved by the regional health authority (ARS) to ensure it is in line with the Plan of Action Against Child Obesity in the Algarve.”
However, parents believe that cuts proposed in the State Budget for 2011, which amount to €803 million, could further aggravate the situation. It emerged this week that some schools across the country were unable to provide essential items such as toilet paper or printer cartridges, and heating systems remained switched off to save money.
The British resident said: “At my son’s school, we were told children would be given less homework as there was no money to buy cartridges for the photocopiers. I know that parents would be happy to do a collection just to safeguard the future of our children.”
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