Each of the students who survived the bus crash in Rock Gutter on Jan. 12 that claimed the lives of seven students will receive a “monthly support payment” if they do not already receive one.
The “monthly support payment” will be sufficient for the students’ education and sustenance, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Ralph Gonsalves said Wednesday as he announced a “Restoration and Development Programme for Fancy”, during his 2015 Budget Address.
“This is of utmost urgency,” Gonsalves said of the “monthly support payment”.
Five students have been confirmed dead, and two are missing at sea and presumed dead after a minivan carrying 21 passengers, 18 of them students, plunged into the sea in north-eastern St. Vincent.
Gonsalves said the Restoration and Development Programme for Fancy will be finalised and implemented in concert with the families of those who are directly touched by the tragedy, the community as a whole, and civil society, including churches that serve the community.
“Mr Speaker, this special development programme for Fancy itself has to be elaborated and implemented with urgency,” Gonsalves told Parliament in the preamble to his Budget Address.
“This programme will include physical infrastructure facilities such as village roads and footpaths; housing sustainable livelihood projects; and improvements in the facilities for primary and adult education, health services, sports, and culture. These facilities have been upgraded over the past several years, but more is still to be done,” Gonsalves said.
He told lawmakers that the community of Fancy, including the affected families in the tragedy, has requested that a fitting memorial be erected for the students who died.
“I agree. So too must one be constructed in memory of the twelve loved one who perished in the Christmas Eve Disaster of 2013. We intend to proceed promptly on these,” Gonsalves said.
He told Parliament that initiatives already undertaken by his government under the programme include the delivery of counselling services to all the families and survivors on an on-going basis.
There is also focused attention to the health recovery of the injured, the speedy provision to the surviving students of all the basic material required to resume their education, including uniforms, books, stationery, school supplies, laptops, tablets, etc., Gonsalves said.
The minibus involved in the crash, was a privately-owned, public transportation vehicle that functioned as the school bus, transporting students from Fancy to schools along the windward coast and in Kingstown.
Gonsalves noted that his government has since purchased for Fancy a new 30-seater school bus to be run by the state, which is scheduled to be delivered in three weeks.
In the meantime, a minibus has been contracted to transport the students.
Gonsalves further restated his government’s commitment to financing each student’s education and training at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College and beyond, at the University of the West Indies or at a comparable cost at any other university, provided that the student meets the matriculation qualifications.
The children were buried last Sunday in a new cemetery, consecrated since their deaths.