BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS – After 17 months in office, a former United Nations economist has told the Timothy Harris-led PLP/CCM/PAM Government, to stop pussy-footing with the education of the BHS students and identify a location of a site for the promised multi-million state of the art high school facility.
Kittitian Willa Franks-Liburd, a former United Nations expert on economics told listeners to Monday’s edition of “Issues” on Freedom FM that the government appears to be in a quandary of locating the new BHS in Basseterre.
She said EC$8 million has been spent on the temporary BHS at Taylors which has the students cramped and confined in a small area for too long with two other schools – Beach-Allen Primary and the Washington Archibald High School in the vicinity.
“I cannot see how they can keep hundreds of students in that confined space for an extended period of time and then some of the facilities that existed at the original BHS are no longer available,” she said.
She noted that the EC$10 million allocated in the 2016 Budget for the BHS could not build a new school and could only be used for architectural design and for an Environmental Impact Assessment, noting that EC$8 million was already spent refurbishing the existing BHS facility. The school was condemned by the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity Government despite expert recommendations from local professionals, the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), theCaribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that the spacious facility be cleaned up and a proper maintenance programme be implemented.
“Another EC$8 million was spent just to relocate the school to its temporary quarters. Those are millions of dollars just gone down the road like that. So we are talking about tens of millions of dollars to build a new school,” said Franks-Liburd.
She further pointed out that with half of 2016 already gone a site for the new school has not been identified.
“If you cannot indentify a site then a proper costing cannot be done, because an environmental impact study will have to be done, soil tests, designs and plans as well as tendering, etc…so I am figuring out now what will be in the 2017 Budget to be presented later this year as no site has been publicly been identified and I think that is part of the problem,” said Franks-Liburd.
“In my humble view as I grew up and lived in the area of the existing BHS which is also my alma mater, it would seem to me in terms of the spacial dimension at the old site, in terms of the environment and its proximity to downtown although it is not in the downtown area, that is actually the best site for the Basseterre High School. If they have to break down the old buildings, spend another couple millions of dollars to sanitise the place both the Western Campus and the Eastern Campus and then build a new school,” she suggested.
Franks-Liburd is also of the view that Prime Minister Harris, Minister of Education Shawn Richards and the entire government “is in a quandary as they do not know where to locate the next Basseterre High School.”
“Basseterre has in nearly 20,000 people. At least two public high schools are needed and you cannot build a new Basseterre High way out in the country otherwise that would not be Basseterre or a High School for Basseterre, because accessibility would become another issue. I hope the Government would put their mind on it and try to address that situation,” said Franks-Liburd, awarded the Medal of Honour for Service to the Nation in the Diaspora in 2009.
Ms Franks-Liburd has worked as a Research Economist with the Caribbean Development Bank and at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank where she was Assistant Director of Bank Supervision for some nine years.
She became an International Civil Servant at the United Nations in 1985, initially assigned to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland, and was later moved to United Nations Headquarters in 2002. She also served as Programme Officer in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General.