May 30, 2023 Letters
Kaieteur News – First of all, please allow me to express, on behalf of the peoples of Region 9, and on behalf of my family and myself, profound condolences to the relatives of the children who died in the worst way imaginable, on Sunday 2023-05-21, at the Mahdia Secondary School Girls Dormitory.I take this opportunity as well to extend condolences to the schoolmates, and the Villages from whence these students came.
I am penning this letter from a position of intimate knowledge of the area and the systems governing school dormitories. I was the Regional Executive Officer, Region 8 from April 2018 to January 2019. It took me a while to overcome the grief, the anger and all the negative emotions associated with such a tragedy; a tragedy that should not have happened in the first place. I took time to process all the information coming out of Mahdia and the various analyses. I then decided that it was time for me to weigh in and give my opinion. As I said before, I am coming from a position of knowledge of the area and the system. I have heard no analysis of the system that apparently failed these girls. If this is not addressed, then we are doomed to have a repeat.
I listened to former Minister Dawn Hastings-Williams who gave us a timely reminder that this happened before, in another Amerindian community, Waramadong, some fifteen years ago. In this instance I think it was three students who lost their lives – again all girls. During my tenure as Regional Executive Officer, Region 8, I had weekly Management Meetings where all aspects of the Region’s administration was examined and reported on, inclusive of the three dormitories located in the Region. All managers had to demonstrate competence in managing their sectors. In two instances I had officers removed for their incompetence – The Regional Health Officer and the Regional Education Officer. Results from those meetings saw the provision of six fire extinguishers each to the boys and girls dorms. There were also fire buckets filled with sand placed in the dormitories. The buildings were not grilled in my time.
There were always reports of students leaving the facilities at night. Management decided to implement periodic, unscheduled checks at nights. These involved the Education Officers, the Welfare Officers, I and even the indefatigable Regional Chairman, Mr. Boneventure Fredericks. The instances of students leaving the dormitories were reduced drastically. My contention, therefore, is that was the system followed this tragedy would have been prevented.
It appears that the present Regional Administration sought to take the easiest way out and decided to grill the buildings in an effort to keep the girls locked in so they would not get away. Assuming that that was the case, they then lacked the foresight to construct suitable fire escapes at the facility. They failed to establish an emergency plan to cater for such eventualities; after all it is children we are dealing with and there is always the possibility of emergencies. This is even true with adults. Then there is the issue of the Dorms Mother locking the grilled door from the outside. If one is to lock a dog in a kennel and set it on fire, the Animal Rights Activists will roast that dog owner. This is exactly how we treated those students.
The Regional Administration had to be aware of the Dorms Mother’s practice of locking the doors at nights. She could not take that decision on her own. If she did, then the Regional Executive Officer and the Regional Education Officer should be sent packing immediately; and should even be charged for professional negligence. Were they aware then the Regional Administrators should face the law for aiding and abetting genocide – because that is what happened there in Mahdia.
As I am penning this letter, I am aware that a male student is being treated for poisoning – he attempted to take his life. This begs the question: are we going to leave the student population to process what happened on their own? We need to start a series of aggressive counselling so that the impact of this tragedy can be shared, thus reassuring the students that they are not alone and that we as a society empathize with them. Failing this we will have more severe reactions among the student population. Additionally, there needs to be a country-wide review of all school dormitories. As I write this letter, I am aware that the St. Ignatius Secondary School dormitories are heavily grilled. I am also aware that there are no fire escapes here either. Come on Priya, stop being feral and get busy. It’s time for you to eventually earn your keep. Let some of that oil revenue flow downwards.
Was Jagdeo honest when he made those promises?
Sep 22, 2023Kaieteur Sports – A formidable team of fitness athletes arrived in Aruba yesterday to represent Guyana at the 50th edition of the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Bodybuilding and Fitness...
Sep 22, 2023
Sep 22, 2023
Sep 22, 2023
Sep 22, 2023
Sep 22, 2023
By Sir Ronald Sanders (The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.