–its sheer grandeur rendering first batch of students almost speechless
THE long-awaited opening of the US$4.7M state-of-the-art Westminster Secondary School in Region Three (Essequibo Islands- West Demerara) officially occurred on Monday, when its Grade 10 students turned out for classes.
The students, many of them coming from lower-level secondary schools, could not stop gushing about the facility’s many amenities, and how it will help them in the development of their education.
“Most of the things that the other schools don’t have it have right here. Like at L’Aventure; some ‘labs’ don’t be there, so you have to go to other parts to get to test out stuff for assignments. But here, they have the ‘labs’; and that’s good,” said 17- year-old Ariane Khan, who previously attended L’Aventure Secondary School, which, like Westminster, is also located on the West Bank Demerara, but further up the road, at Number One Canal.
Khan spoke with the Guyana Chronicle during her lunch break, and said that the school has already left a lasting impression on her. Besides being in love with the facility, she shared that she has also already started to enjoy her classes.
“I had Office Administration classes this morning, and the teacher was really good; we need more teachers like her,” Khan said as she smiled.
Fifteen-year-old Akeem Albert is an aspiring engineer who is in the “Technology Stream” of Grade 10. He believes that being at a school that has state-of-the-art equipment will help him in his pursuits.
“I am so excited to do my work, and compare notes with my teachers and laugh and talk with my friends. I am very grateful for the school and the teachers,” the budding scientist said.
Albert is a former student of the La Grange Primary-Top Secondary School. Here in Guyana, a “primary-top school” is the secondary school department of a Primary School, where those students who did not gain a place at a regular secondary school are placed.
Also from La Grange Primary-Top and now at Westminster Secondary is 15-year-old Mathias Ignatius, who was very impressed with how large the school space was compared to his previous school.
“It’s bigger and it’s better here; the place feels really nice. It was not really nice there, but here it’s different; you can get to do social distancing, and you get a whole spot to yourself. And people are friendly,” Ignatius said.
Situated on approximately six acres of land, Westminster Secondary boasts such facilities as an elevator, multi-purpose hall, music room, dance studio, and laboratories for Chemistry, Physics and Biology. The school is the first to be completed under the Guyana Secondary Education Improvement Project (GSEIP), which is being funded with financing from the World Bank.
Construction on the school began in October 2018, and was completed and handed over to the Ministry of Education (MoE) earlier this year.
The school was reopened on Monday, with a turnout of 91 students. Only those in Grade Ten will be attending school, since secondary schools across the country have not yet been reopened to face-to-face learning for Grades 7 – 9 students due to the rigours of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school was built to accommodate up to 1,000 students, making it a Grade ‘A’ school. It will also be a List ‘B’ school, which speaks to its quality. Regional Education Officer (REDO), Devendra Persaud said the school will go a long way in alleviating the overcrowding of schools in Region Three.
“Over the years, we would have had overcrowding in some of our schools, and now with COVID-19, that would’ve been a real threat to us. By having a school built to accommodate 1000 students, it’s a plus for us. So I am very happy. I also feel very motivated as a REDO, knowing that we have a state-of-the-art secondary school in Region Three,” the veteran educator said.
Persaud noted that aside from the physical facilities, every effort has also been made to ensure that the school is also equipped with all the necessary personnel.
“We have a full-time school’s welfare officer here, and, since May of this year, we did a lot of initial planning, where we did a lot of training with our teachers. I’m very, very happy about that at the moment,” the REDO said.
The school has 50 teachers thus far.
Persaud and Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand did a tour of the facility on Monday. During the tour, Minister Manickchand couldn’t help but remark how glad she was that the realisation of the school will help to facilitate the closure of primary-top secondary schools all across the region.
“That is not a proper or optimum way to educate children. There are three ‘primary tops’ in this region closed completely, and those children are now coming to a secondary school with proper facilities.
And I guarantee you, we are going to see them doing better, because education delivery is dependent not only on the actual attendance at school, but the quality of education students receive. And you can’t receive a proper secondary education at those schools,” Minister Manickchand said.