As residents of the island community of Wakenaam continue to lament the conditions under which they live, the absence of a mortuary, proper school playfields and the inoperability the local library and a school computer lab have also emerged as issues they are faced with.
On a visit to the island on June 6, residents, specifically of Maria’s Pleasure, said that the quality of their roads, drainage system, water and supply of electricity left much to be desired.
However, further interactions with island residents have revealed that there are several additional issues which make living on island a challenge at times.
Aftab Zahoor, a longtime resident of the island made the journey to Stabroek News last week to voice some of these issues. Among the problems noted was the inoperability of the island’s mortuary.
Zahoor explained that regional officials had constructed a mortuary on the island in 2011 so that post-mortem examinations (PMEs) could be carried out in Wakenaam as opposed to at t
he Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) or the West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH), saving time and money. The man said though, that since completion in 2011 the facility has not been utilised.
As such, residents of the island are still forced to pay substantial sums of money to transport their dead across the Essequibo River and then either to the GPH or the WDRH to have a PME done.
However, when contacted, Region 3 Chairman Julius Faerber said the mortuary has not yet been completed.
Speaking to Stabroek News earlier this week, Faerber said that while the building in which the morgue is to be housed has been completed there are several aspects of the facility that are yet to be completed. He explained that the building’s electrical work is yet to be installed while the specialised refrigerator required for use at such a facility was acquired last year.
Faerber said that on a recent trip to the island he was informed that while the electrical problems remained the facility is expected to be operational by year end.
Another issue concerned status of the island’s only library. Residents say that the Wakenaam Library, located behind the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) has been closed for several months owing to the librarian falling ill. Zahoor said that the NDC has failed to replace the librarian, or even make temporary provisions until she is able to return to work. As such the library currently is not offering services to residents.
Residents also complained about the state of two school fields, which at present, cannot be used by students. One man, who asked that his name not be mentioned said that a plot of land located behind the Essequibo Islands Secondary School was earmarked to be transformed into a playfield for the children of the school. This has not yet been done. Asked about the delay in the construction of the playground, Faerber said the region simply lacks the resources necessary to get the work done. He explained that the plot of land where is the playground is to be constructed is an old rice field.
Work needed to transform the land includes extensive excavation and backfilling and Faerber said while the region had acquired an excavator, it is still unable to move forward with the construction of the playground.
Complaints were also made about the condition of a playground near the Sans Souci Primary School. Zahoor alleged that the
playground has not been maintained for two years. The man said that tall grass and weeds, aided by the grain have overtaken the field making it difficult for children to play.
However, Faerber said that when he visited the island in February this year it was well groomed, and that there was even a cricket match taking place at the time. He said though, that the maintenance of the ground did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) but the NDC.
Attempts to contact the Chairman of the island’s NDC for a comment on the status of the playground were fruitless.
Residents also complained about the incomplete status of a well which was dug near the Sans Souci Primary School.
One woman said that after the drilling of the well was complete work ceased, and all of the materials that presumably were to be used for the well’s construction still remains at the drill site. Asked about the well, Faerber said that he was unaware of any such work.
Finally, Zahoor said that a computer lab which has been constructed in the school is not being utilised. The man, who said he once taught at the school, recalled that the lab was installed with the hope of offering the children exposure to Information Technology. He said though, that such instructions are not being carried out.
Once again, Faerber said he was unaware of such a situation. He said though that the regional administration is currently in the process of outfitting all of the island’s schools with computer labs in an effort to offer IT instruction the students, and if the lab was not in use then this should have been communicated to regional officials.