Principals visit schools and families affected by Rock Gutter tragedy
January 23, 2015
Principals visit schools and families affected by Rock Gutter tragedy

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Principals of Secondary Schools and Technical Institutes (SVGAPSSTI), in a show of solidarity, camaraderie and support, on Friday, January 16, visited the schools attended by the students who lost their lives{{more}} in the tragedyof January 12.

The executive, headed by president Curtis Greaves, along with vice-president Godwin Martin, secretary Kay Martin-Jack, treasurer John Renton, assistant secretary/treasurer Miriam Pompey, PRO Calma Balcombe and committee member Sharon Joseph, accompanied by other principals of secondary school and technical institutes, visited the St Vincent Grammar School (SVGS), the North Union Secondary School (NUSS) and the Georgetown Secondary School (GSS).

At the SVGS, the principals visited the staff and headmaster Curtis King and assured them of their commitment to keep praying for and supporting them. Special comfort was given to Mr Snagg, the fifth form teacher.

The principals then travelled to the NUSS in a bus driven by Pastor Noel Clarke. The students and staff were addressed and assured by each member of the party that they were not alone in their distress. Their spirits were lifted by a moving prayer by Pastor Clarke.

The occasion was sombre, especially so for Principal St Clair Da Santos. At times, holding back tears, he spoke of the distinction of one of the deceased students, Jamalie Edwards. His tribute was reminiscent of the biblical account of the friendship of David and Jonathan.

A release from the principals’ association said one gets the sense that the staff and students have accepted the fact that the deceased are gone, but that they are still unable to comprehend what had taken place.

The principals then drove to the GSS, where again, the student body was called together.

Alwyn Joseph, who is principal of the Dr JP Eustace Memorial Secondary School and pastor of the Sans Souci Streams of Power Church, offered a seasoned and moving prayer, followed by brief remarks by principals Greaves, Martin and Pastor Clarke. Principal Ronald Clarke was elated that his colleagues had come to bring some comfort to his staff and students. A male student thanked the principals for their visit.

The group then went to Fancy to assure the families that their loss is felt by all secondary and technical institutions in the nation.

“Our presence was very much appreciated by the parents, grandparents and relatives of the deceased. Grandmother and grandfather of the Grammar School student Mr and Mrs Sandford Hoyte were happy to see the principals. Pastor Clarke rendered a prayer for this family,” the release said.

At the crisis centre, which was the next stop, the team was greeted by Bishop Jason Gordon, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kingstown and Barbados. Here the group met with the mother of one of the survivors and the mother and father of one of the children who are still missing. They were receiving counselling from Lavern Simon and other assigned counsellors. Prayers were offered by Alrick Cuffy, principal of the Georgetown Technical Institute and Pastor Clarke.

Education officer Kathleen Jeffers explained that the counsellors were there for the week. She stated that a psychologist was flown in from Barbados to be with the counsellors. She praised the community for supporting one another. She urged the SVGAPSSTI to support principal Da Santos and staff, as they are the ones who are the hardest hit. She praised the association for its firm support and solidarity.

“Visits continued to a few more families of deceased students. While visiting, we were met by the Prime Minister, Dr the Hon Ralph E Gonsalves, who had come to Fancy to be with the families and to continue his all-week show of support. He was more than pleased to see the principals and praised us for our timely intervention.”

Pastor Clarke comforted the parents with prayer.

“While we were getting ready to leave it was noticed that two of the young teenagers were crying. Dian Williams, principal of the West St George Secondary School quickly assumed her role of counsellor to bring comfort to these youngsters. These tears are sadly just an indication of those which will be shed at the mass funeral, tentatively scheduled for Sunday, January 25.”