EDITORIAL: Not so sweet

The word reaching our newsroom was hardly comforting. Apparently, there is a serious ambient temperature problem at one of the top secondary schools here in our fair land. According to our reporter in THE DAILY OBSERVER of October 4, “Poor ventilation at the Antigua Girls High School (AGHS) is being blamed for over a dozen students fainting at the school over two days.” Now, if this is not alarming, then nothing else is. After all, someone could very easily be permanently maimed or disfigured while fainting and falling. Thank God that we are not a litigious society, because injury resulting from having fainted could easily come back to haunt the public purse as lawsuits. Not to mention that as the mercury rises on the AGHS compound, so too could tempers.

Of course, we sympathise with the new principal at the school, Mrs. Theoline Croft. Talk about a baptism by fire! Well . . . heat! Mrs. Croft is a past student of the school, and we can imagine that a return to those hallowed halls, as head of the good ol’ alma mater, must have filled her with a great deal of pride and joy, and a determination to keep the school as the shining beacon where “learning is sweet!” We here at Observer media certainly wish to congratulate Mrs. Croft on her well-deserved ascension to the top post at the AGHS, and we wish her all the very best. By the same token, we can very well imagine her dismay at the ventilation/cooling situation at the school. It is of the gravest concern, and we trust that the education officials will look to resolving that problem as a matter of urgency.

 Actually, if we are allowed to digress, we must mention that reports reaching us indicate that Mrs. Croft has embarked on an effort to restore pride in the ol’ blue and black and the old-fashioned ideals of modesty and decorum espoused by the school’s founders. In this regard again, we salute Croft on her bold and visionary leadership, and we hope that all the stakeholders – parents, students, teachers and education officials, will join hands in a partnership that ensures that the AGHS remains as the venerable institution of learning that it is. We know that Dame Bridget Harris, Dame Eusalyn Lewis and Mrs. Evelyn Sheppard, three of the school’s most distinguished past students, would concur and lend their voices of support. And yes, they too would be distressed at the ventilation or lack thereof at the school. After all, they were pillars of the school as past principals (Lewis and Sheppard) and education official (Harris).

The AGHS was founded in 1886, two years after the Antigua Grammar School, by the Branch and Nugent family as its sister school. It has seen the addition of new buildings over the years and we suspect that that is a big part of the lack of ventilation. The east, west and northern perimeters of the school compound are closed in by two-storey buildings, and the northern side is closed off from a free flow of air by the St. John’s cathedral. Clearly, poor circulation is a problem, especially during the oppressive heat of the midday sun. Then add to that the fact that the school is bursting at the seams with students.

We call on the authorities to explore every avenue in ensuring that the words of the AGHS motto, “Mel est bonum, sic est doctrina” (“Honey is sweet, so is learning.”)(Latin) will still be a priority and reality at the AGHS, one of our national treasures. Learning will not be fun, and it will hardly be sweet in the still and stultifying air on the AGHS compound. Nay, we submit that the ventilation situation at the AGHS is a clear and present impediment to learning.

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