Barbuda educator defends decision to open learning centre

Students in Barbuda at the temporary classroom set up by several educators four months after hurricane Irma. (Photo courtesy Rae Beazer)

One of the educators who helped set up a learning centre in Barbuda said that she will do everything in her power to keep classes going for children of the storm-ravaged island as she accused the government of failing them.

Rae Beazer said that she is not satisfied with the timelines given for the reopening of the government schools in Barbuda, particularly the Sir McChesney George Secondary, which is the only secondary school on the island. “They stated that they were going to open up the school for Barbuda’s children in Barbuda from January 15th. They did not. We spoke to Major [Alando] Michael and I asked him when the secondary school is looking to reopen and he said the next school term which is March/April, that is not good enough,” she said.

Beazer, who said that she is a certified teacher, said that that is why she, and five other educators, made the move to start classes on January 15, using a church as a classroom – even though they have not been granted permission from the Ministry of Education. “It was stated that there are only 20 plus children here, but when we had registration the [11th and 12th] of January, we registered over 50 children. We have five volunteer, educated, experienced teachers on the compound. We have from three years old right up to secondary school which is up to 18…the children were already behind before we set up the learning space,” she said.

She said that before anyone starts saying her actions are political or that’s she is an opposition party operative, she must make it clear she is “Labour all the way and what they need to see is that it is not about politics. Right is right and wrong is wrong.”

Beazer said that the educators saw the need to step in because the people of Barbuda have a right to want to return home; their children have a right to an education and they should not be held “hostage” to attend school in Antigua. Barbuda was hit by Hurricane Irma in early September last year and most of the island’s infrastructure was affected.

The island was evacuated as Hurricane Jose approached, but it never made landfall. However, due to the declaration of a state of emergency and a mandatory evacuation order which remained in effect for several weeks, Barbudans remained in Antigua, at the expense of the state, for the most part.

Recently, there have been calls for Barbudans to return to help rebuild their island. Beazer posited why the government, including Prime Minister Gaston Browne, continues to call for Barbudans to return home, even though important things – which she highlighted, are not in place. She cited the ‘important things’ as running water, electricity, a functional hospital and a functional school.

According to the woman, it is expensive for Barbudans – who owned their homes – to live and pay rent in Antigua, and it is depressing for the children. She said that many students were being bullied and subjected to uncomfortable situations in Antigua and many are still traumatised, and that is why a lot of parents took their children back to Barbuda. “Why are they [the government] concentrating on an airport and not the school? All the requirements needed to get the secondary school functioning should have already been done …they have enough workmen to open up the secondary school,” she contended.

The principal of Sir McChesney George Secondary, John Mussington, who is one of the educators partnering with Beazer, had earlier said that the school’s fence needed repairs as well as the roof. And there is also a need for a cistern for access to water.

(More in today’s Daily Observer)