Manifesto commitment of a new BHS coming to fruition
Basseterre, St. Kitts – The Team Unity manifesto promise of building a new Basseterre High School is coming into fruition, says the prime minister, the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris, at his monthly press conference Aug. 2 at the Parliamentary Lounge.
The prime minister noted that the building of the new school was one manifesto commitment that was overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, and the people of East Basseterre, in particular, as the school will be built there.
“We are then just simply pursuing our mandate in relation to the Basseterre High School,” he said. “This was not some fishing expedition we embarked upon. We canvassed the length and breadth of this country, put forward our case that having regard to all the international and regional reports, which warned with regard to the health and safety at the Basseterre High School, that a new venue was the best place.”
Harris said that the precautionary principle was applied. The government decided to err on the side of caution, as it did not know exactly what was wrong. He said it decided not to let the students and teachers suffer on the site.
“This is simply all that we are doing,” he said. “So, the lot of noise is unhelpful about it and it will not detract us from proceeding with our manifesto mandate. It is something that has been voted upon. We didn’t say to the people that we are going to put them back there. We said ‘Not there!’”
The prime minister said that the choice to place the school near the aquifer was not chosen on a whim, but that it was well thought out and professional advice sought. He said that several sites were discussed with technical persons and a system of evaluation was put in place. They considered the sites and made a short list.
“We then as another mark of precaution, submitted that list conscious that one of the areas was the area around which the aquifer and watershed presumably lay,” he explained. “We gathered the best team of experts in water management issues, including Dr. Halla Sahely, who is a former head of water management and a knowledgeable expert in the area. We included [people with] the best competency we had available in the island of Nevis, including [people] from abroad. We said put all of them together, including Athill Rawlins (former manager/water engineer).”
The best minds in water management looked at all the sites and gave the government the go ahead, said the prime minister. [They said] that there should be no reasonable challenge to the aquifer and to water quality when they proceed because certain best practices were observed.
Prime Minister Harris made it clear that the project is really about future proofing St. Kitts and Nevis and “there is no better way of future proofing St. Kitts and Nevis than to invest in the young people.”
“I prefer to spend millions building a school than have to spend millions on rehabilitation programmes because persons fell through the crack of our education system,” he said.
It has been said that the building of the school is too costly, but the prime minister said that around the world, receiving an education is always costly.
“For the individual going to UWI or UVI, education is expensive, but it is a worthy investment and that is how we have to see it,” he said. “So, if we think education is expensive, try ignorance. Try having to build a new prison because people fell through the cracks and too many of our citizens are left behind.”
The prime minister said that the health and well-being of the students and teachers of BHS and the preservation of the watersheds, aquifer, water quality and yield will never be taken for granted by his government. He added that it will apply the best standards to seek solutions in the public interest.
“We will never gamble with the lives and well-being of our citizens; the advice we have had so far gives us confidence that we are on the right track,” he said.