Schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are expected to open next Monday, Sept. 5, for the new academic year, as planned, says Curtis King, who has ministerial responsibility for primary and secondary education.
“What I would say is that school is scheduled to commence on Monday, 5th September. And to date, we have no indication that school will not commence on the 5th of September 2022,” he said on radio on Sunday.
Over the past few weeks there have been whispers that the start of the new school year would be pushed back, but King said this is not the case, even as he noted that a number of primary and secondary schools are undergoing repairs while others do not have their full complement of teachers.
“… every time school is supposed to recommence, whether it’s at the beginning of the school year, or after break from term, there is always some anxiety among some sectors of the population with regards to whether school will be open or not,” King said.
He said this has been the case over the last couple of years, especially since the onset of the COIVID-19 pandemic and with the explosive eruption of La Soufriere volcano last year.
He noted that some schools “had a battering” in that they were used as emergency shelters during the eruption.
“… some of the wear and tear would have been sufficient to require significant repairs, and thus, clearly, these schools are under repair, and naturally, some persons would have had concerns. But thus far, we have been assured by the agency that is preparing these schools that we will be up and ready,” he said.
King said that there were some schools that were part of the school improvement programme.
He mentioned St. Vincent Grammar School — of which he is immediate past headmaster, Girls High School, St. Clair Dacon Secondary School, Thomas Saunders Secondary School, Bequia Anglican High School, Barrouallie Government School, Barrouallie Anglican School and Kingstown Anglican School.
“Those schools are down for substantive repair and this had nothing to do with the volcano,” he said, adding that the schools were identified for repair under a special project, “given their level of disrepair”.
The minister said that the school in question, more than any other, is St. Vincent Grammar School.
“Because what we discovered while doing the work on the main building is that the section that is occupied by the form 1s, the new entrants, that section was severely compromised in the sense that it was termite infested,” King said on WE FM’s Issue at Hand.
“And we felt that naturally, we could not do substantive repair on the main facility, and then have our new entrants going into a facility that was not up to the same level or standard as the main building.”
He said the government took a decision “rather late” to also repair that section of the school.
The education minister said he has been visiting the school frequently and the contractor has been “pulling out all the stops, if you like, to ensure that we are ready.
“So, I would say that school, in particular, is touch and go in the sense that come the fifth of September, we might have some little issues that we still have to ensure that they’re in a state of readiness. But other than that, I visited the schools in Barrouallie — the Barrouallie Government and the Barrouallie Anglican — where work is also being done and those schools are already.”
The minister said the other schools under the special schools’ repair programme (SSRP) “are receiving attention” and work is being done through BRAGSA, a state-owned company.
“And, again, when we had our task force meeting, … we were assured that BRAGSA will do all within its powers to ensure that come 5th of September, we’re ready.”
The minister, however, said there are “certain types of work, heavy duty work” that might not be completed before Sept. 5 and will be done on weekends.
He said that students of Mary Hutchinson Primary School in Union Island will continue to attend classes at the learning resource centre, given the government’s commitment to build a new campus.
“And we were really hoping that we can take them out by Sept. 5. We actually started a temporary building. But unfortunately, that work will not be completed by Sept. 5… And hopefully, we’ll be able to complete that work. In the very first part of the school year, the new school year.”