The Deputy Premier’s words were made during the handing over ceremony for the rehabilitated Bregado Flax Educational Centre Secondary Division (BFEC) on Friday, September 17, that was damaged during the 2017 hurricanes.
“Sister islands often feel forgotten, ignored, they feel like no one hears their cries, but I have to tell you, and I can say this from the bottom of my heart, I am a part of a government that cares. I am part of a government that cares, and I care.”
He continued: “And, when I talk about the government, I am not just talking about elected persons, I am talking about the Permanent Secretaries, I am talking about the Chief Education Officer, I am talking about everybody in the ministry, we care about you. We don’t want to see you suffering in inadequate conditions.”
His comments come following protest action on Jost Van Dyke only days earlier, where residents were demonstrating against the bad condition of the sole educational facility on the island that children and teachers were forced to utilize.
Since then, the minister, along with the Premier and other government officials, met with residents to chart a way forward, where remedial works would commence immediately, and school would resume on Monday September 20.
The Education Minister said further said that challenges must be solved by confronting them head-on.
“We faced the hurricanes, we faced COVID, we have challenging circumstances that we are confronting, but to solve those challenges, we are not going to solve them by shifting blame; we are not going to solve those challenges by off weight blame by us looking good, and somebody else looks bad. To confront these challenges, we have to stare them directly in the face we have to look at ourselves in the mirror to be willing to work harder," Hon. Wheatley said.
In the meantime, Ninth District Representative and Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Hon. Vincent Wheatley said the reconstruction of the school “shows our commitment to the development of our country through our young people.”
“It is important that you know that you are now in one of the most sophisticated schools in the British Virgin Islands here at Bregado Flax, and it is only fitting that this edifice be here in the Ninth District because here is where the first capital was; so we have been leading for a long time, and it will not change anytime soon,” he added.
He further mentioned that the school has a top-notch solar system as well as modern learning tools such as promethium boards.
He continued: “It is a beautiful building, and I am going to ask you, students, please, please take care of this building. One of the things that I noticed when I was here was the students were fanning a lot; they say the rooms are quite hot. Well, I can assure you today that help is on the way; shortly we are going to start installing air conditioning (A.C.)’s in certain classrooms. They will not be done all at once, but we will be starting shortly, installing A.C.’s.”
He said four will be installed in the next two weeks.
The District Representative also highlighted other plans in store for the school.
“It is hoped that within the next few months, we will be breaking ground so we can give this campus the full use of a secondary school so we can bring more classes and more subjects into this campus and issue a brand new, much talked about primary school; that too is in the works.”
He said he has already spoken to his Permanent Secretary to get on with the land acquisition and “hopefully it will be done before this year is out so then we can say “yes we can now break ground”. The funding is already in place; the design is there, so we can move forward in short order. It has to happen, to have these two campuses here has been spoken about for a very long time and is time to stop the talk and get on with the action.”
Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie, who also delivered remarks, said, “Throughout the history of these Virgin Islands, no administration as a brand has focused more on its people than the Virgin Islands Party governments.”
He explained: “It was the VIP Government under the late, great Hon. Lavity Stoutt that championed education for our people by ensuring we had a robust secondary programme where all had access to secondary education, and later, he championed the building of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. It was the VIP Government under the leadership of R. T. O’Neal, that ensured that Bregado Flax Educational Centre, under the VIP came into existence and also the H.L. Stoutt Community Campus on Virgin Gorda.”
The rehabilitation works were partly funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), FLOW and UNITE BVI.
Construction works commenced in May 2020 when the $1.8 million contract was signed with Quality Construction.