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October 14, 2014
Fire guts Charles Verbeke Centre, displacing Grade 6 students

The head teacher of the St Mary’s Roman Catholic School says that every effort would be made to have her displaced grade six pupils back in a classroom as soon as possible.

Eula Johnny told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday morning that plans are underway to have the 78 students and four teachers relocated in the nearby {{more}}Finishing and Furnishing building, following a fire, last Friday night, that destroyed the Charles Verbeke Centre, where the school’s grade six classes had been housed for the past three years.

The students are temporarily being accommodated in the St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church at North River Road.

“We are looking at a place where they used to be, and we will know by today. When we have finalised, we will call the parents in and let them know, but today it was mainly to have the children receive some kind of initial counselling, to support them in whatever way necessary,” Johnny indicated.

She said that counsellors from the Ministry of Education had visited the school earlier that day to comfort and reassure the students, some of whom were traumatized when they learned that their classrooms were gone.

Johnny saId that apart from the physical classrooms, an assortment of valuable and sentimental things went up in flames, most of which she said would be replaced in time.

“We lost everything. The children’s CPEA (Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment) work; we lost the initial work of their projects. The initial work with their portfolio, some of their can-do skills, student-made tests, material things; for example, all the furniture, we lost our beds; we had two beds and mattresses and pillows; we lost our Xerox copier and ink, we lost our fridge, stove, microwave, all the bats and balls that we normally played cricket with; we lost 10 or so computers that we had there; we lost teachers’ personal items, some of the students books, musical instruments; we lost fans that were not installed as yet, students’ passports and birth certificates. It’s sad.”

The head teacher indicated to SEARCHLIGHT that the grade six pupils and teachers visited the burnt out site on Monday, and she said that the students, as an assignment, were asked to express their feelings on what happened through essay writing.

“Because it is always good to have them write how they feel, because it helps the healing process,” she noted.

“They are sad. Some children cried themselves to sleep when they found out; a few parents spoke to me and told me about that, so it’s just mainly to reassure them that all is not lost and the future awaits them and the possibilities are limitless.

“Today, some of them they hugged me and said ‘Miss Johnny, I am so sorry for the loss,’ but I keep reassuring them that God is in our midst and as our motto says ‘With His help, we will succeed,’ and we see this as temporary thing that will blossom into something greater.”

Johnny said that when she was told on Friday night that the building was on fire, she was shocked and saddened, but as of Saturday, she herself had been reassured, thanks to the outpouring of support from other teachers and colleagues, parents, as well as the Ministry of Education.

She said that the next step in the rebuilding process is sourcing a venue for those displaced, and securing equipment and other resources to replace what was lost.

“We are waiting to see where we will go to see what we need, but the parents would help to assist if we need to clean up where we are relocating.” (JJ)