BARBADOS / THE BAHAMAS – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is putting US$43.3 million into the construction of a brand-new comprehensive school and the rehabilitation of two others in East Grand Bahama-, to accommodate students whose schools were destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
The bank’s board of directors approved the loan to the government of The Bahamas at its December 9 meeting. Under the project, the East End Primary School will be rehabilitated, and a new East Grand Bahama Comprehensive School will be constructed. In addition, 2,000 teachers and principals will be trained in learning recovery and enhancement to support student-centred, differentiated accelerated learning to address the learning loss occasioned by the impact of COVID-19. The total cost of the project is US$48.08 million with the government contributing counterpart funding of US$4.76 million.
The facilities will fill the critical need that arose in East Grand Bahama- after hurricane Dorian’s passage destroyed four schools in the area – the East End Preschool in Freetown, the East End Primary School in High Rock, the East End Junior High School in McClean’s Town and the All-Aged School in Sweeting’s Cay.
As a result, for much of the past three years, students have been forced to rise as early as 4:00 a.m. to make the over 60-mile commute by bus and ferry to Freeport to access educational services. The lengthy commute has made it challenging for students to keep up with their schoolwork, challenges that were further exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schooling.
CDB’s division chief, social sector division, Dr Martin Baptiste underscored the challenges which the lengthy commute has had on the educational pursuits of the displaced students.
“This new norm is inconvenient, more expensive, and has been thought to affect the day-to-day activity of the students depriving them of a total of two to three hours spent travelling to and from their destinations. Providing a school plant will eliminate the need for students to commute these inordinate distances each day, thereby allowing more time for extra-curricular activities which are central for student life, and balanced personal and academic development,” stated Dr Baptiste.
The new comprehensive school complex will also include a multi-purpose hurricane shelter which will be designed to function as a cafeteria during school hours but can be seamlessly transitioned for use as a hurricane shelter in the event of a natural hazard event.
Dr Baptiste highlighted the potential overall social benefits of the project, noting: “Given the intersectionality between the home, community and the school, the investment in new school infrastructure will also play a significant role in the general improvement of respective communities, enhancing skills training programmes, social protection initiatives and promoting social cohesion.”