Browne back pedals on return date for Barbudan students

Former Education Minister Michael Browne

The Minister of Education has back pedalled on his position to send Barbudan students back to the island for classes.

On the weekend Michael Browne posted a notice on his Facebook page which outlined that classes for fourth and fifth formers would commence on September 18 at the Sir McChesney George Secondary School on Barbuda.

The notice also read that students for primary and those in lower secondary forms would begin classes in October on morning and afternoon shifts.

The minister was greatly criticised for his decision in wanting to send the children back to the island, which was evacuated after being declared uninhabitable by Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

However, speaking in Parliament on Monday, Minister Browne said the decision has been taken to integrate the students into schools here.

He said he had the opportunity to visit the Sir McChesney George Secondary and saw the devastation firsthand. One of the classroom blocks, according to Minister Browne, was completely gone and no furniture could not be found.

He said over 500 students were registered in the education system on Barbuda, 130 preschoolers, close to 250 primary school goers and 150 secondary students.

“Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Education is pulling its weight to support the initiative that our government is putting forward to normalise, to create a normal life for students coming over from Barbuda,” Browne said.

The newly constructed Sir Novelle Richards Academy at Tomlinson’s will be used to accommodate all incoming first formers from Barbuda who would have been enrolled in the Sir McChesney George Secondary School.

There will also be placements for second to fifth form secondary school students and the primary school students as well.

The minister said a number of schools have already been identified for these placements, and the Ministry of Education is in the process of sourcing uniforms for all the Barbudan students.

Transportation will also be provided to ensure that the students get to school on time, Browne added.

Minister Browne revealed additionally that recent graduates of the Sir McChesney George Secondary School are being offered full scholarships to attend the Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology (ABIIT).

Students who successfully complete their associate’s degree will have the opportunity to attend two universities, one of which is the Mid Western State University which is offering almost 50 per cent scholarship to successful graduates to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Browne said that the ministry will also ensure the full integration of teachers from Barbuda into the public education system on Antigua.

To this end, a meeting will be held today at 2 p.m. at the Public Library between these teachers and Ministry of Education officials.

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  1. Good move. The students need to be in school as soon as possible. And incorporating the Barbudan teachers is also great. Place them in the schools where the Barbudan children are so they can be comfortable teaching their own. It also gives the students a familiar face they can identify with as they adjust from the devastating situation to a new normal.

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