Last Updated on Wednesday, 9 August 2023, 20:10 by Denis Chabrol
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand Wednesday night announced that the Mahdia Secondary School’s girls dormitory would most likely not be rebuilt there and a number of girls would instead be transferred to President’s College, Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara.
“Our consultation with the community and all the stakeholders have produced a reluctance to build another dormitory at the location,” she said in response to a question by opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) parliamentarian, Ganesh Mahipaul.
With schools scheduled to reopen on September 4, 2023, she also told the House that girls in Grades 9, 10 and 11 of the Mahdia Secondary School would be transferred to President’s College, in reply to a question by opposition lawmaker Tabitha Sarabo-Halley about where the students would attend classes and if they would not commence classes at the start of the new school year. “The girls in Grades 9, 10 and 11 who were in the dorm, will come out and be housed at the President’s College. Even those, who were in Grade 11, because of the terrible tragic destruction, everybody is going to start back at the curriculum level at Grade 10 which is Form 4,” she added.
It is likely that there would be a delayed opening of a number of schools until the dorms are properly fixed especially with firefighting and other key provisions, Ms Manickchand said.
Under scrutiny for the National Assembly’s approval of an additional GY$918.4 million for capital works in the education sector, she also said that the Indigenous Indian village of Micobie in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) would get a secondary school. Several of the 19 girls, who perished in the girls dormitory fire on May 22, hailed from Micobie which does not have a secondary school. “The male dorm is going to open as per usual and the decision of the Cabinet was to build a secondary school at Micobie which would take care of the Micobie students who were in the dorms as well as those who are now leaving Grade six,” the minister said.
A female student has since been charged with 20 counts of murder connected to the fire at the Mahdia Secondary School dormitory.
The Education Minister also told the House that Cabinet has decided that existing and new dormitories must be fitted to a raft of minimum standards, in the wake of the deadly fire at the Mahdia Secondary School’s girls’ dormitory. They include the number of working and adequate washroom facilities, beds, dormitory population, live-in facilities, adequate house parent facilities, security and adequate fire fighting and prevention equipment, tools and materials as recommended by the Guyana Fire Service.
Replying to APNU+AFC parliamentarian Natasha Singh-Lewis about provision for the Mahdia dormitory, the Education Minister said after the Mahdia fire, Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn, the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs had collaborated on putting several features in place for dormitories. Since then, Ms Manickchand said government has been considering a report by Regional Executive Officers “to see where there may be gaps” in implementing the minimum standards for dormitories with a view to fill those before the reopening of school.
Ms Manickchand said she was unaware of a comprehensive design model for government buildings that take account of ventilation, wind direction, maintenance, and energy saving technologies. “We don’t know about it. We will ask for it and probably use it as a base,” she said when asked by former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson about model that had been done in collaboration with the Guyana Energy Agency.