Lloyd condemns suspected arson at Anatol Rodgers as “burden on Bahamian taxpayers”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As authorities continue their investigation into a fire that destroyed two buildings in the mathematics block of Huntley Christie High School in North Andros, the cost to repair the school has been pegged at several hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to education officials.
Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd told Eyewitness News Online he received a preliminary assessment of the cost of repairs.
“I can tell you the cost is going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the buildings being destroyed,” he said, when contacted.
“Again, we are waiting on the final report, but that building has to be completely demolished and replaced.
“That’s at least the preliminary report that I have received.”
According to the minister, while authorities have yet to complete their investigation, it does not appear to have been caused by arson.
The blaze occurred around 4 p.m. last Wednesday when staff were still at the school.
No one was injured.
The school was in the process of administering finals exams for its 396 students.
It closed for the summer break last Thursday.
Monique Bowleg, the district superintendent for the area, said were in not for the quick action of residents, staff and teachers, the damage could have been worse.
Also, a fire at Anatol Rogers High School around 8 a.m. on Sunday left one classroom extensively damaged.
Authorities suspected the fire was the result of arson.
The school’s sprinkler system assisted in putting out the blaze.
Yesterday, Lloyd said the officials were deeply concerned about the incident, noting that it occurred during daylight hours notwithstanding security presence.
He said the ministry was awaiting the final report from Fire Services.
Teams from the Ministry of Education’s physical planning unit and the Ministry of Works’ physical planning team unit visited the school to assess the damage and the cost of repairs, Lloyd noted.
He said he expects to learn the cost of the damage in a matter of days.
“Cost impacts the Bahamian people; it impacts the schools; it impacts our students, teachers, students, and administrators,” the minister said.
“This is unfortunate and I hope to get the report as soon as possible and take whatever necessary action we need to.
“As you indicated, this is a time in broad light as it were; the school security is there; the staff is still on premises.
“If — again if — it happens to be some act of somebody’s intention to cause harm or endangers, then naturally it is quite a brazen act and we condemn it in the highest degree. “
The minister said the fires represent a further burden on the backs of taxpayers, noting that the allocation for the Ministry of Education will have to be adjusted to accommodate the repairs.
He said it is “unfair and the Bahamian people should be outraged that somebody with the gall damaged their property”.
“It’s just at this time of the year [when] we are trying to put together scarce resources to improve the campuses for students, teachers and administrators., and you have these additional setbacks,” he said.
“It is quite disheartening, but here we are.
The Ministry of Education was allocated $109.99 million in the 2019/2020 budget, up from the $92.66 million in the current fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education will be allocated $202.2 million in the upcoming budget, slightly down from the $205.6 million in 2018/2019.
These figures do not include capital expenditure related to education.
The government expects to spend just over $11.25 million on the digital government initiative; another $24.39 million on the construction of schools and $6.24 million on “structure upgrade”.
It projects to spend another $18 million of pre-primary and primary education; $4.4 million on secondary education; $6.2 million on tertiary education; $2.28 million on school facility improvement and $12.96 million on general admissions.