With disgruntled Barbudans demanding the “immediate” reopening of schools on the island, Clare Browne, director of education, has promised to contact the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) and Public Works in an effort to appease their discontent.
Fifty-three parents of Barbudan students signed a petition dated January 5 and sent it to the director of education, stating that they felt it necessary to write to him since it “appears that getting the education services functional in Barbuda is not a priority.”
They said with several residents of Barbuda having to leave shelters, coupled with the expense of living in Antigua, many have been forced to return to the hurricane-ravaged island. The ministry of education had, however, indicated that students who are in Barbuda should return to Antigua for their schooling.
But the parents have contended that the continued absence of their children from Barbuda “is having a negative psychological impact” on the students.
Browne said he is in receipt of an electronic copy of the petition and he intends to respond formally. He told an OBSERVER media reporter that in order to comply with the Barbudans’ request and uphold the law at the same time, NODS and Public Works “must immediately make provisions for the ministry to get, at least, the McChesney George school plant [repaired] so that we may resume the education of Barbudans in Barbuda soonest.” Browne said once the secondary school plant has been completed, the ministry will move to resume classes for both secondary and primary students “albeit in modified ways.”
Both the primary and secondary schools in Barbuda were damaged during the passage of Hurricane Irma, last September. The Sir McChesney George Secondary School can be repaired but officials say the Holy Trinity Primary School must be rebuilt. Meanwhile, government spokesman, Lionel “Max” Hurst said that it would be “too disruptive” to transfer the students between January and July.
He said for the students to return to school in Barbuda, their teachers would also need a place to live. Hurst said the government is aiming to ensure that the students can return to school on Barbuda by September.
The Government of the Dominican Republic has committed to rebuilding the primary school, free of cost.