Photos and video by Keno George
The state of the Queen’s College playing field is just one of numerous issues plaguing the top secondary school as a result of challenges facing the governing board over the last five years.
On Wednesday Stabroek News posted a video showing that the field which once facilitated a robust sport programme is now in a deplorable state. The surface which once boasted three cricket pitches, a long jump pit, 400 metre track among other facilities is now covered in builder’s waste and knee length grass under which are several pits. It was these pits which led to the field being condemned in 2015 as students were consistently being injured during physical education classes and the annual athletic championships. The annual school’s sports had to be held elsewhere.
Stabroek News spoke with several members of the Queen’s College family last week including several teachers, present students and past students all of whom expressed outrage at the state of the playing field.
This newspaper was told that more than five years ago owner of DeSinco Trading Frank DeAbreu, who at the time was a member of the governing board, had donated $1 million for the rehabilitation of the field.
DeAbreu then spearheaded a campaign which saw the college raising an additional $2 million dollars before the end of 2012. However since DeAbreu was injured in an accident on October 21, 2012 the drive to raise $20 million for the first phase of the field’s rehabilitation appears to have stalled.
Additionally the Board could not reach a consensus on whether or not to begin the rehabilitation process using the funds already available. That $3 million has for five years sat untouched and raised some $35,000 in interest.
One overseas-based, old student John Campbell, past president of the New York chapter of the Queen’s College Old Students Association, told Stabroek News that the posted video “is spurring quite a bit of outrage from alumni” who intend to facilitate “some action pretty soon.”
Attempts to reach Conrad Plummer who chaired the board during the period in question until the end of its recent tenure on March 12, 2017 proved futile.
Since March, the school has been operating without a board which means that necessary decisions and financial approvals for immediate expenditures have been suffering. Stabroek News approached Minister of Education Dr Rupert Roopnaraine to understand why a board has not been appointed and if there are plans to rehabilitate the field soon.
The Minister noted that he received the names of board members during last week and intends to approve their appointment before Wednesday. He could not comment on the plans for the playing field. Stabroek News however understands that it is not part of the budgeted expenses for 2017.
Since March 12, the school has been functioning without the ability to approve needed expenditure, this after years of being governed by a board whose members frequently failed to attend meetings. These frequent absences meant that a quorum for financial decisions was often not met and necessary expenditure on infrastructure development were delayed or never approved.
The playing field is one of the many casualties of this reality.
In an interview with the Guyana Chronicle in March, Principal of the College Jackie Benn noted that the condition of the field is the only area in which she believes she has failed. She explained that on accepting the post in 2012 she crafted a five-year plan aimed at improving the infrastructure of the school by fixing the field. This is the only goal in that plan she has not achieved.
Despite this acknowledgment, Benn in that interview expressed hope that the “field will be refurbished and made into an all-weather track so that not only Queen’s College students, but other students in Georgetown can benefit.”