DCA clears the way; Barbuda's primary school back open

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By Elesha George

In its 97th year of existence and more than two years after category 5 Hurricane Irma shattered the walls of this cornerstone institution, the efforts of the Barbuda Council have successfully facilitated its reopening.

At a ceremony to mark the reopening of the Holy Trinity Primary School on Monday, January, 13th, 2020, Ministry officials congratulated the local government authority for their persistence in renovating the existing school plant.

“I salute the Barbuda Council for making the impossible possible. When others intimated that it could not be done, you insisted that it will be done and by your arduous efforts it was done,” said Director of Education Clare Browne.

“Honestly, I remembered thinking then, Holy Trinity was gone, forever gone,” Browne said as he recalled the state of the building post-Irma, describing “rubble was everywhere, places where wooden classrooms stood were bare ground, roofless walls, all cracked and crumbling, tattered from the abuse of the previous day seemed … [and] everything was soaked and scattered.”

Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Michael Browne said, “I want to commend, the principal, staff, teachers, the Barbuda Council, the donors, the central government, the Ministry, I want to commend everybody for really putting their hands to the plough to make this possible.”

Minister Browne, who said he looks forward to further improvements at the school, pledged that the government in partnership with the Barbuda Council and other partners would continue to support education efforts throughout Antigua and Barbuda equitably.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Barbuda, Trevor Walker remembers having to take an immediate decision to repair the current school plant, after he had been told by the Development Control Authority (DCA) and other government officials that the building had been declared structurally unsound and should be abandoned. After the state of emergency was lifted in 2018, temporary classrooms were erected.

“The Central Government refused to assist the council and the people of Barbuda to repair this school. instead they decided to allocate resources to erect some wooden structures at the lower school to house the entire primary division. The Barbuda Council was never satisfied with those arrangements, given the unsecure nature of the compound and the fact that the area is prone to flooding. This was subsequently confirmed by representatives from UNICEF, who categorically stated in a report that the existing conditions at the lower school was less than conducive to learning and the environs were not safe for students,” Walker explained.

Notwithstanding an official letter from the DCA demanding that the council should cease working on the main compound, Walker said the local government took the decision to pass a resolution to continue the repairs. The Sandals Foundation was the first company to contribute to the school’s renovation by donating $50,000 of the more than $1.4 million that would be utilised to repair the learning institution.

On January 7th, 2020, Walker said the DCA finally issued a certificate, stating that the Holy Trinity Primary School had successfully complied with the Authority’s requirements for development.

Charlene Harris, principal of the Holy Trinity Primary School or what majority of Barbudans call “the top school” said: “History will mark this day down,” reporting that “for some of the students they are happy to return. There are those who would have been on this compound, the others would not have had the experience of being here before; they’re happy, they’re excited, they’re jumping, they’re skipping all around. I think for them, it’s like opening a gift.”

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