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Disappointed with article on plight of Mayreau students

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Editor: I was both surprised and disappointed to read the article on the school boat that appeared on the back page of a recent edition of Searchlight. I was surprised, because the article was written by Donald DeRiggs, whom I’ve come to know as a caring and careful reporter. I was disappointed because the article did not reflect Mr DeRiggs’ or Searchlight’s usual journalistic standards, which include accuracy and balance.{{more}}

The article did not celebrate, or even acknowledge, how wonderful it is that Glenroy Adams of Grenadines Dive transports Mayreau high school students to and from Union Island every school day so they can continue their education. The article did not reveal how this service lifts the heavy financial burden of room and board on either Union Island or St Vincent that would otherwise be required for students to go beyond grade six.

The article suggested that the school boat fee is a reason some Mayreau students drop out of high school, without acknowledging that ever since the service was initiated, Mr Adams has repeatedly chosen to transport many students week after week and month after month even though their boat fees were not paid. The article suggested lifejackets be provided to the students, without including the fact that the Tobago Cays Marine Park donated lifejackets for this very purpose when the service began.

The article did not mention how many adult members of the Mayreau community rely on the school boat for transportation when they need to get to the bank or see a doctor or take care of other errands. The article did not mention that Grenadines Dive offers this convenient service to Mayreau men and women at half the cost of passage on the fast ferry. The article did not mention how vital this transportation link is when various ferries are not running.

Since I believe that Donald DeRiggs meant well when he wrote the article, I’m truly surprised he chose not to contact Glenroy Adams to check some facts and fill in some voids. While it’s not at all clear who his sources were, it is clear that he did not get a clear, accurate or complete picture.

As a loyal long-time customer of Grenadines Dive, I know a lot about Glenroy Adams and all that he has done over the years for the community on Mayreau. I really don’t like to see such a generous and honest man blindsided by unsubstantiated allegations and innuendo. It’s simply not right. I expect better from you, Mr DeRiggs. I expect better from you, Searchlight.

Nancy Saul-Demers

Editor’s Note

Mrs Saul-Demers,

You say in your letter that we did not celebrate or even acknowledge the service provided by Mr Adams (by the way, nowhere in the article was the name of the owner of the boat or his company mentioned), but in the article, it clearly says, “By and large, the motor launch used to ferry these students back and forth daily is providing a very useful service and its operators must be applauded for taking the initiative…”

Your letter suggests that the article was viewed by you as an attack on Mr Adams! Far from it. The purpose of the article was to draw attention to the plight of students on Mayreau and the extraordinary efforts they go through to get to secondary school every day and some safety concerns Mr DeRiggs had, based on his observations and a recent experience during a trip on the boat.

In the article, Mr DeRiggs mentioned that the main reason students are unable to complete school is because they cannot afford the boat fees. Based on my own investigations and conversations Mr DeRiggs had with parents on Mayreau AND an operator of the boat service, one of the reasons why students drop out of secondary school is the cost of keeping the child in school (which includes the boat fee). The article did not say the students are turned away by the boat operator, nor did it call on the operator to transport the students for free. It called on Government and/or the private sector to subsidize the cost of transportation.

Secondly on the issue of life jackets, the article did not say that the boat did not have any — although, according to Mr DeRiggs, none were visible during his trip. Why weren’t they visible? Did the students know where they were? Why weren’t they being worn? Have safety drills ever been done with the students? The article called for each student to have a personal life jacket which they should wear during their boat trips to and from Union Island and pass down to their siblings. The issue here is the safety of our students. We do not want to wait until we have another tragic accident with our students — this time on a boat — to put certain regulations in place.

You mention in your letter several benefits of the boat service to the people of Mayreau — all commendable, but totally irrelevant. How was Mr Adams blindsided? Where was his generosity and honesty attacked? Where is the inaccuracy?

Editor

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