By Kenton X. Chance
ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands (CMC) — St. Vincent and the Grenadines has offered to accommodate students from the British Virgins Islands (BVI), where schools are not expected to reopen soon following the widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Irma when it slammed into the British Overseas territory last week.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of Economic Planning, Camillo Gonsalves, who is on a visit here, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that his country has some experience assisting students from storm-ravaged Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations.
Gonsalves pointed out that in 2004, after Hurricane Ivan, Kingstown offered classroom spaces to Grenadian students who were preparing to write primary, and secondary school exit examination as well as those pursuing advanced level qualification.
He said that his government has made a similar offer of support to the BVI.
“Of course, it is better, it is most beneficial if those students have a connection to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, if it is a family connection or a friend connection of some sort, so that the students themselves, all children, don’t feel too displaced by the process,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves is being accompanied here by Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar and three technical officers with specialisations in education, engineering, and health.
Gonsalves and Caesar met with Premier D. Orlando Smith, who informed them that school life is going to be significantly disrupted in the short-term in the BVI.
“And that, of course, affects children who want to go to university, the children who want to make the transition from secondary school onward. So, we have made the offer, we have some experience with it, I remember there was a Grenadian student who did so well in St. Vincent and the Grenadines post-Ivan that she received a national scholarship and we want to use that experience, see if it is transferable here.”
Gonsalves said the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government did not have a sense as yet what the number of BVI students it will be able to accommodate.
“But the offer has been extended and we’ll do an assessment as to how many we can help and how many of them have some sort of familial or other connection to St. Vincent and the Grenadines to facilitate that process.”
Meanwhile, Caesar told CMC that St. Vincent recently benefitted from an international programme where it imported a large number of animals into the country and as a result will assist the BVI in that sector by exporting cattle to the island.
He said St. Vincent and the Grenadines is also recruiting skilled workers who might be able to assist in the reconstruction in the BVI, Anguilla or even St. Maarten, two other islands that felt the fury of Hurricane Irma.