Several members of the Association of Caribbean Tertiary Institutions (ACTI) are in the rebuilding and recovery mode after suffering major damage to their infrastructure during hurricanes Irma and Maria, two of the strongest storms to hit the region in living memory.
President of ACTI and President of Anguilla Community College, Dr. Karl Dawson said that in spite of the significant impact suffered by institutions, “it is very encouraging to see the efforts institutions are making to restore facilities and to begin serving students once again.”
President of Dominica State College, Dr. Donald Peters, reported that the college suffered severe damage as a result of the passage of Hurricane Maria.” Dr Peters said about 85 – 90 percent of buildings were rendered useless. Some ground floor units appear useable with minor rehabilitative work.”
The Open Campus sites in Anguilla, Tortola, St Kitts and Nevis and Dominica all suffered some damage, however, the damage to the site in Dominica was particularly severe. Approximately 75 per cent of the roof was loss, all student computers and other equipment.
The Open Campus estimates that reconstruction can cost approximately US$1 million and an additional US$500,000 in replacing equipment.
Further north in the British Virgin Islands, President of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, Dr. Janet Smith, said Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the Tortola-based campus.
In other areas, new structures are needed or very significant repair work. “The penetration of windows and doors at various points on the campus resulted in water and wind damage in several buildings on campus.” Dr. Smith added, “There was significant damage to classroom furniture and equipment. Some temporary buildings were totally destroyed.
In Anguilla, the damage to the Community College came as a result of breeches in the hurricane shutters and main doors to the facility,” according to President, Dr. Karl Dawson. “This resulted in damage to internal doors and ceiling tiles as well as some water accumulation on floors,” Dr Dawson stated.
The University of the Virgin Islands has estimated that damage to the campus is approximately US$60 million. The St. Thomas Campus was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Irma. “All buildings incurred some level of water damage, fallen ceilings, debris and exterior damage,” the report from UVI stated. “Numerous lights, security cameras, rooftop solar panels, and light poles on Campus are down, and numerous trees have been destroyed,” the report added.
The UVI St. Croix campus also suffered significant damage as a result of Hurricane Maria.
Dr. Hubert Fulford, President of Turks and Caicos Islands Community College has indicated that the Providenciales campus suffered significant damage, including losing the entire top floor. This has impacted the college’s administration, classrooms and a computer lab. The TCI Community College resumed classes in October and has adjusted the semester period to end in February.
Several of the ACTI member institutions have restarted classes, all be it on a reduced scale. In Dominica, the Open Campus now has use of about 50 percent of the buildings, even though there is still no electricity and Internet.
Dominica State College will have eight classrooms operational by November 6th when they hope to resume class for second year students, with the assistance of a donor agency.
Anguilla Community College started classes on Monday October 9 with an abbreviated schedule; while the HLS Community College in the BVI has also started classes on Monday 23 October, with an abbreviated schedule.
While the University of Sint Maarten reported minimal damage to the campus, the widespread damage to the island and its economy has impacted their significant private sector donor support and this poses a threat to the sustainability of the institution.
The University of the Virgins Islands has created a fund to support students, faculty and staff who have suffered losses as a result of the hurricane. Donations can be made by following this link: https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/2017IRMA.
Principal of the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College in St. Kitts and Nevis, Mrs. Ionie Liburd-Willett said the campus suffered minimal damage or disruption to its scheduled operations.
Jamaica Welcomes Displaced Students
Displaced students have been listed by all institutions as one of their major concerns. Students are grappling with personal loss of their homes, all their possession, employment, and in some cases family members.
The Joint Committee for Tertiary Education (JCTE) in Jamaica has offered to accept displaced students from ACTI-affected institutions for at least two semesters inclusive of include tuition and accommodation. In a letter to ACTI, the JCTE said that the students will be accepted at least six tertiary institutions in Jamaica. These are; Northern Caribbean University – Jamaica, Western Hospitality Institute – Jamaica, University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (formerly University College of the Caribbean), Caribbean Maritime Institute (now Caribbean Maritime University), Excelsior Community College, and GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport.
“Upon completion, the students can transfer the credits earned in Jamaica to the tertiary institutions in their home country for completion of their program,” the JCTE asserted.
ACTI President, Dr. Karl Dawson is encouraging the continued support of regional and international bodies in the recovery of the critical tertiary education sector.