A US$92,000 fully air-conditioned, sound and dust proof school was commissioned in Sand Hills along the Demerara River on Thursday; it is the first of its kind to be built in Guyana.
The school was gifted to the community by U.S. bauxite company First Bauxite (FBX) and its subsidiary Guyana Industrial Minerals (GINMIN).
The head-teacher at the Sand Hills Primary, Jen Bowman, got emotional as she spoke about the struggles to get an education in the community. Currently there are a total of 15 students attending the school; this includes nursery and primary students.
The small community has a population of just about 75 persons and persons engage mainly in logging and farming.
As part of its corporate social responsibility, FBX/GINMIN built the school in Sand Hills provides free electricity not just to the school but to the community for the very first time; thanks to the company, the community also has potable water for the first time.
The community presently only has a church, a school and a health centre.
The new modern Sand Hills School will also serve neighbouring communities Princess Carolina and Vreed-en-Rust.
Head teacher Bowman grew up in Sand Hills and attended the Sand Hills Primary. She has been teaching all her life but became the head-teacher at the school in 2010.
“I literally paddled from here to Georgetown to attend classes so I can write the CXC exams; after that there was a training programme for teachers for which I was a part of and I gained entry into Cyril Potter College of Education,” an emotional Bowman said.
After graduating from the Cyril Potter College of Education, Bowman said she then went on the University of Guyana where she also traveled every day from Sand Hills to attend classes.
“I am so happy…I am out of words but I would like to thank all of you who would have had an input in this building.
“We trust by God’s grace we will be able to satisfy and fulfill whatever it is to make Sand Hills better and to make Guyana a better country,” Bowman said.
Bowman explained that the school caters for students up to Grade Nine or Form Three in secondary education should they chose to do this.
Presently they are only students from Nursery Year One to Grade Six. With just four teachers, including Bowman, teachers are in charge of more than one class.
However, based on enrollment it is not possible to have a teacher for each class.
“Presently, Year One has one child, Year Two has one child, Grade One has two children…it ranges from one child to three in a class,” Bowman said.
She said they have all the necessary tools and equipment for the school, which includes computers and textbooks donated by FBX/GINMIN.
The modern school building was needed for when the bauxite operations fully take off.
Meanwhile, since FBX/GINMIN began operations in January this year, more females than males are employed with the company.
Chief Executive Officer of the company, Bill Rice said one of their goals is the help the community grow and they can do this by providing the right environment for teaching and learning.
“We have a lot of faith that you are going to be the next leaders here in Guyana and we think anything that we can do to help you get there will be our pleasure,” Rice said.
The company said they will also contribute to US$45,000 for a church building, US$54,000 in scholarships for secondary and university students, and US$15,000 in school materials and supplies.
A playground and teachers living quarters was also constructed and a passenger ferry boat was donated to the community by FBX/GINMIN.