Dominica students killed during Hurricane Maria
ROSEAU, Dominica (CMC) | A senior education official in Dominica on Monday said that several students were killed when Hurricane Maria passed through the island on September 18, leaving a trial of death and destruction. Official figures indicate that 28 people had been killed by the Category 5 storm when it barrelled its way through the island, with at least 32 people still reported missing. However, unofficial figures have put the death toll as high as 60.
Speaking at the daily press briefing on Monday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, Chandler Hyacinth, while not disclosing the exact number of students killed, confirmed that some had died.
“We have had a few deaths among our students, so we want to extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those students who have passed on,” she said, adding that schools across the island had suffered damage and that the “the impact of this disaster to the education (sector) is vast”.
She said that every effort is being made to get schools that have been classified as not seriously damaged opened as quickly as possible, adding that schools will be opened in phases based on the degree of damage. But she said there were other factors that will contribute as to when schools are opened including transportation and the provision of basic amenities.
“We are looking at road safety, availability of transportation…we are mindful of the sanitary conditions and health conditions at some of our schools especially as it relates to access of running water,” she said, noting also there is need for psycho-social support for students “and we are preparing for that”.
She said priority will be given to re-opening secondary schools where students are preparing to write several exams set by the Barbados- based Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).
The education official said that the public library system here has collapsed completely. Chief Education Officer, Melina Fontaine, urged parents “to find some time for your children to do some school work” while the Acting Chief Education Officer, Dr Jeffrey Blaize said school hours will be from 9:00 am to 1:00pm (local time).
Fontaine urged parents also “to know where your children are at all times”.