President’s College dorm rebuilding on fast-track process By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
April 29, 2004

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THE government has reaffirmed its commitment to rebuilding the dormitory at President’s College which was destroyed by fire on Monday.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon at his weekly news conference yesterday, said Cabinet at its meeting Tuesday viewed the destruction of the building at “this prestigious academic institution” as another “setback for Guyana.”

However, he noted that the government responded promptly to the situation with President Bharrat Jagdeo and Education Minister Dr. Henry Jeffrey visiting the scene and immediately making commitments to provide relief to the students and pledging to rebuild the structure.

Luncheon said Cabinet has mandated the Ministry of Education to provide estimates of the cost for rebuilding the dormitory.

Asked what has been the response of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to the plight of those students whose School Based Assessments (SBAs) were destroyed by the fire, he said officials of the Ministry of Education have been in contact with counterparts at the CXC and the degree of uncertainty which existed at the time of the fire has now been significantly reduced.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mr. Ganga Persaud told the Chronicle that the SBAs for most subject areas have been submitted and the only area affected is the sciences which will be written in June.

Persaud assured that the response from CXC officials for a request for more time to submit the SBAs for the Natural Sciences has been favourable, and he does not anticipate any difficulties for the students who are taking the sciences.

Alternative accommodation for the affected students who number about 100 is being explored, the Permanent Secretary said.

Three possible locations are under consideration but no final decisions have been arrived at, he said.

Persaud also reported that engineers were working on the estimates for rebuilding the dormitory, and these, he said should be ready in another few days.

Procedures would be carried out under a ‘fast-track mechanism’ so that construction could begin in the shortest possible time, he said.

One option being considered is the use of concrete in rebuilding because of the fire hazard nature of wooden structures, he added.

Asked about the source of funding for the reconstruction, Persuad said the cost of rebuilding would determine the source - whether local or foreign.

Fire mysteriously broke out at one of the dormitories at President’s College, Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara on Monday completely destroying it in a matter of minutes.

On one was injured.

The loss caused by the fire is estimated to be in the vicinity of $100M, with the students who were housed in the building losing all their books, cash, clothing and other valuables, while several members of staff lost their salaries, electrical equipment, clothing and books.

Classes at the school are scheduled to resume Tuesday.

The government will be spending some $2.5M on providing help to those students who lost all their belongings in the fire, which will amount to about $25,000 per student. Each student is to be provided with one school uniform.

During his visit to the scene of the fire on Monday, President Jagdeo gave the assurance that classes will not be disrupted and the government will ensure that accommodation is provided for students.