421 students displaced after fire destroys St George’s High School

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A total of 421 students are displaced following a fire of unknown origin that ravaged the historic St George’s High School in Georgetown on Wednesday. 

Education Minister Priya Manickchand along with Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn visited the scene as the fire raged.  Both ministers described the destruction of the school as a heartbreaking loss for not only for the present but past and future students.

“Any school that is destroyed by anything is an extremely big blow…this is a secondary school in the middle of Georgetown. It’s going to affect a large number of persons. It is extremely saddening to watch.

“Particularly in and around Georgetown, space can be a serious issue for us; this is very heartbreaking,” Manickchand told reporters on the scene.

Further, the minister said, “It’s a major issue because we are seeing a greater retention rate and more students are coming in or staying in because of various pathways.”

Minister of Education Priya Manickchand and the transition teacher who was in the building when the fire started. [Photo: Ministry of Education/ July 20, 2022]

Manickchand explained that the Ministry was interested in the school because of the many TVET classes offered there but now the school is destroyed.

The Home Affairs Minister also acknowledged that the destroyed school, which was built during the 1800s, is a huge blow to the country’s landmark.

“It would be one of the oldest schools in the country in terms of the building, it would have been related to the St George’s Cathedral itself”

“It is certainly a loss to the landmark, to the architecture, and of course to those students – past and present – who have attended the school,” he said.

When the News Room arrived on the scene at around 14:00 hrs, at least three fire trucks and multiple firefighters were attempting to contain the fire. The fire had already spread from the upper flat of the school and the lower parts were engulfed in flames. In an attempt to stop the fire from destroying the wooden entire structure, firefighters tried to douse the outer parts of the building with water.

Dozens of bystanders gathered along Church Street and North Road to observe the firefighters as they battled the flames.

A teacher and students were inside the school when the fire erupted at around 13:30 hrs. The fire quickly engulfed the upper half of the wooden structure before it spread and eventually destroyed the building.

Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn observed the remains of the St George’s High school. [Photo: Ministry of Education/ July 20, 2022]

According to the guard of the school, smoke was seen coming from the front of the school, and persons inside were immediately alerted.

The Education Minister was observing markers of the NGSA exam papers when she received the call about the fire. She said the displaced students would have to be catered for.

“It is too soon to decide where the learners will be relocated to for the commencement of the new school year in September,” the minister said. However, she explained that all the students might not be relocated to the same school because of space. Students will have to be sent to different schools.

Meanwhile, Benn told reporters that the investigators will have to examine the cause of the fire.

“We just heard that the school was on fire, and at the same time that I got the call from the Fire Service; their assets were already rolling past the Ministry (on Brickdam) going to respond. By then I was told that there were five assets out there,” Benn stated.

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