Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2022. 5:59 pm CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Benjamin Flowers: When word came to me that St. Mary’s School was condemned, I was shocked, but not surprised. The roof leaked back in the 90’s when I was a student there, and the schoolyard floods quite easily. The building is practically a piece of history, surviving several hurricanes despite its failing stature.
But time is an unbeatable opponent and two assessments conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology (MOECST) have concluded that the building is no longer safe to inhabit.
Today, I spoke with Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, General Manager of St. Mary’s, who said that the school has sourced four wooden buildings and is working on a fifth to house the school’s 300 students, the first of which will be delivered at the end of September with another being delivered every week after. Meanwhile, teachers and students will use a combination of learning packages and online sessions, like those used during the pandemic. The management is also looking at housing students temporarily at other facilities, such as the Samuel Haynes Institute, which is being looked at on Tuesday afternoon to determine feasibility.
As far as the fate of the school building, which had debris falling and rusting steel exposed, she (that’s not a typo, Dr. Cayetano is a woman) said that plans are already in the works for the school’s demolition and having it rebuilt.
“We plan to rebuild St. Mary’s using the same model that is there, so when you pass by a few years down the road, the buildings will look just like they’re looking now, just that they will be brand new buildings. That’s what we are pledging,” Dr. Cayetano said.
So the school will look the same, but will it really still be our school? St. Mary’s graduated thousands of students over the years, producing productive citizens at every echelon of society, and boasts a former Prime Minister, Said Musa, among its alumni. The school that they played in, learned in, grew up in, will be gone. The schoolyard is also losing a fixture that has been there for decades, a tree at the back, affectionately dubbed “The 100-year-old tree” by some students, that will have to make way for the change in times.
“It’s a magnificent tree; however, as heartbreaking as it is…when we measured the space, unfortunately for what we need, the tree will have to go,” Dr. Cayetano added.
I am a proud product of St. Mary’s. Many phenomenal women including my own mother, gave their all to make sure we not only knew how to read and write, but how to be human, how to be polite, and how to take pride in our work; traits that many would say are hard to come by these says. Even though the building will be replaced, to me, it feels like the legacy of the school will suffer a great loss.
To many people, in the grander scheme of things, it’s just a building and it’s just a tree. But for those of us that were there, it’s a place of memories, a place of firsts, a place of lasts, of tragedies and triumphs, of wins, losses, scrapes, and scars. I’ll be monitoring when they finally pick the place apart, and I’ll be sure to keep you informed. In the meantime, for all my St. Mary’s alumni, wherever you are, take a moment of silence when you can, for our school, for our friends. Take a moment for our memories.
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