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Children in Mayreau play football on a street on Tuesday July 9, 2024, near debris left by the passage of Hurricane Beryl on July 1, 2024.
Children in Mayreau play football on a street on Tuesday July 9, 2024, near debris left by the passage of Hurricane Beryl on July 1, 2024.
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The government is considering bringing children from Mayreau and Union Island to St. Vincent for schooling from September while their campuses in their storm-battered islands are repaired.

“My current thoughts about the school is that we are not going to have back electricity and have things where the children will be able to go to school in Union by September so I’ll have to renovate a couple of buildings or build timber buildings for the secondary school and the primary schools,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told iWitness News in Mayreau on Tuesday.

He said the thinking was that the government would repair the former Richmond Gabriel University campus at Arnos Vale, which formerly housed the Teachers’ College.

“But that’s to be determined, finalised this week. And then of course, if we do that, then I’ll have to take up mothers. I have to put them in guest houses because you can’t just send the children alone,” the prime minister said.

“So, it’s a complicated process. But we have to set about doing a number of things so that normalcy can return to some extent while we do the rebuilding.”

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Gonsalves also discussed the issue on NBC Radio on Wednesday, saying that VINLEC had indicated that electricity might not be restored in Mayreau before September and year-end in Union Island.

He said independent generators can be used in Mayreau.

“It is quite possible we can have the primary school OK there. And we have to do repairs to the clinic. It is a new clinic but it is gone, the roof, or at least large sections of it,” Gonsalves said.

He said VINLEC was partnering with the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation, adding that the government also wants to set up generators and find a space where people can gather on evenings.

“We need to think seriously and today we need to discuss it at the Cabinet,” the prime minister said.

He said he had spoken on Tuesday with people in Union Island and Mayreau about repurposing buildings in St. Vincent so that students in Mayreau and Union Island could attend.

The prime minister the two primary schools on Union Island might have to be combined.

He said that if the children are brought to St. Vincent, the government has to provide accommodation in guest houses for those who do not have relatives or people who can responsibly oversee them.

“We will have to bring the teachers, many of whom are from down there,” he said, adding that the educator who are from St. Vincent would have their own accommodation already.

“And if you bring the children, you will have to bring at least one parent to stay with them. Of course, the ferry goes up and down so the other parents can come and visit from time to time.

“Everybody has to make his or her own contribution, sacrifice. And, of course, it will be more than one child in the family in several cases. One or more might be in secondary and also in primary. It’s a costly exercise but I can’t have the children without instruction,” the prime minister said.

“Come September, they must not be put in a situation disadvantageous to the child of the rest of the country.”

Gonsalves said it was probably the first time there was public discussion on the matter, but said it has to be resolved quickly.

“Because, if we are doing that, we have to begin the repurposing of those buildings. We have to begin the construction immediately, identify somewhere where we can put them if we have to do fresh temporary construction.”

He said each of such temporary wooden schools might cost EC$2 million.

“I don’t know the condition of the two buildings in which Richmond Gabriel was housed and whether they can hold the number of students,” he said, adding that there might be around 450 students altogether from the primary and secondary schools.

“… people don’t begin to conceive of the nature of this particular challenge which faces us. This is a great cause and great causes have ever been won by doubtful men and women,” Gonsalves said.

“And I am not doubtful. I am sure the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are not doubtful. That’s why I am talking about solidarity with ourselves, unity among ourselves. I am not talking about political unity. I am talking about elemental people unity,” he said.  

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3 Comments

  1. Make it make sense says:

    Good news, but these temp buildings can be constructed on those islands, use one of those big diesel generators which is used on the trucks for carnival to power the said buildings.
    This way no one has to be displaced. A Vinlec employee can monitor these said generators interms of refueling and such. Just a thought.

    Reply

  2. Good idea! While the PM’s concerns are valid, the practicality of his solution is suspect. Using large generators make better sense. Perhaps the nation should invest in large stationary generators as backup to Vinlec electricity generation on these Grenadines islands. This is even more relevant as we can expect more frequent storms during these times of ocean warming and climate change. Serious thoughts must be given to measures the defend these islands from the winds coming off Africa and the rising Atlantic ocean. In fact, all of SVG is vulnerable and the costs would be staggering.

    I am in sympathy with the plight of our people in the Grenadines and I hope that politics does not aggravate their problems.

    Vinci Vin

    Reply

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