Government well able to accommodate the 30 students from the Pelican Primary School – PM Gonsalves
The government can adequately provide schooling for all the students of the Pelican Primary School who have been affected by a dispute between the developers on Canouan.
That is the word from Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves who spoke about the issue in Parliament last Thursday.
Last month, the Glossy Bay Marina Limited (GBML) was blocked, by court order, from removing the Pelican Primary School and the Coral Reef Pre-school from its premises.
The privately run schools are located on lands belonging to Dermot Desmond and GBML and were built by the Canouan Resorts Development Holdings (CRDH) and investor Andreas Pignataro when both Desmond and Pignataro had an amicable relationship.
A falling out between the two investors was followed by a request for the school to be moved, but this did not happen. But now, GBML is demanding that the school be removed to facilitate further development at the marina site, a move that has been blocked by an injunction which will be heard in court today, Tuesday September 11.
Last Thursday, activist Terry Bynoe broadcast, live on Facebook, a video showing over 200 workers standing around on the Marina site.
Bynoe said that rocks from a hill near to the Marina were sliding down, threatening the Marina’s fuel tanks.
He said management wished to relocate the fuel tanks to where the Marina’s offices are located, but first needs to move the offices to the school site.
He said the delay in the removal of the school has created a serious problem and the safety issue with the tanks could force a closure of the facility, putting 200 workers on the breadline.
Bynoe said GBML and the Marina only have 128 acres to play with, while CRDH has 1240 acres of land at its disposal, where a site can be found for the school.
The activist and some workers, during the live video, called for government to intervene and have the problem sorted out.
In his address to Parliament on Thursday, Gonsalves said the government will not get involved in the school relocation issue as the matter is before the court and is expected to be ventilated on September 11.
“…Nothing I am saying here is in relation to that at all. I am not going to talk about the offers made by the Marina,” Gonsalves said.
Desmond has offered to make available, two villas for the relocation of the school, but this offer has been turned down. The villas are said to be inappropriate for a school.
Gonsalves said he has spoken to Desmond and the investor has assured him that he will not be closing the marina or firing persons, rather, he wishes to employ more people and develop the facility.
The Prime Minister said one of the schools has over 30 primary school aged children and one has about 11 or 12 pre-schoolers and under the Education Act, government has an obligation to provide primary education for children five years old and up.
Education officials have therefore informed stakeholders that the government has sufficient space at the government run Canouan Primary School to accommodate the approximately 30 students over five years old who attend the Pelican Primary School.
“We will fulfil and satisfy our obligations, so if tomorrow we are told that they want the spaces the spaces will be there.
“I gave the instructions that teachers must be on standby to take up the additional slack and if additional teachers are required then all the arrangements will swiftly be put in place,” Gonsalves told Parliament.
He said individuals have a right to have their children attend private school, which is guaranteed under the Constitution, but he is not addressing that; he is addressing the obligation of the government.
“There were some suggestions that teachers from the school (Pelican Primary School) will go to the [Canouan] primary school but that was not entertained because we have our teachers and we will teach within our own primary school system,” said the Prime Minister.
Gonsalves added also that there are three other private pre-schools in Canouan which can accommodate the 11 or 12 children who are enrolled at the Coral Reef Pre-school.