A group of Queen’s College old students have taken the initiative to rehabilitate the school’s recreational field and have committed to attend to its maintenance for at least the next six months.
Stabroek News had reported on Monday that the field, which had transformed from a usually well-kept area into an “unnavigable” space with overgrown grass and builder’s waste, had been cleared two weeks after this newspaper reported on its deplorable conditions.
It was since related that only one section of the field was cleared, although the funds have already been raised to have additional works completed. According to past student Alfred Granger, clearing the entire field will cost $72,000, based on an estimate received from the National Parks Commission.
The rest of the field is expected to be cleared as early as the end of this week, or by as late as next week.
Speaking with this newspaper yesterday, Dr Terrence Blackman, who is spearheading the initiative, said the group has every intention of restoring the field to its former glory, while stating that they “will not be satisfied” until students are able to use the ground in the same way that it was utilized by their predecessors. This means that in addition to having the grass cut once monthly, the group will be working to facilitate funding for additional works, such as grading of the ground.
Blackman noted that the initiative is only intended as a means of “holding down the fort” until long-term measures are put in place to deal with the maintenance of the field and he was optimistic that the school will make every effort to have such done.
It is hoped, he said, that the group will be able to partner with the school’s board, principal and alumni to put things back in place and restore the Queen’s College field to its former glory.
Blackman related that the effort initially involved students from his class—individuals who had entered Queen’s College in 1979—however, they have since been joined by alumni from the years above and below them who have either already made donations or have pledged to make donations.
The initial group was formed by Dr Nicholas Waldron, Chris Wilson, Devendra Kumar, David Shaw, Hector Isadore, Orson Smith, Neil Cadogan, Don Fletcher, Johann Brathwaite and Blackman. A pledge was subsequently made by Karen Wharton, current president of the New York Chapter of the Queen’s College Old Students Association.
Blackman explained that the driving force behind the initiative is the recognition of the importance of sports in education and the role they play in building character. He noted that qualities like fairness and ethics are usually learned outside of the classroom. “It is not just what happens in the four walls of a classroom that aids in the creation of an individual,” he said, adding that “academics does not stop at the door,” but requires another space.
The maintenance of the field for the next few months will be funded with the support of individuals across Queen’s College’s alumni chapters, who Blackman said will likely be making provisions on their respective websites to have these funds received.
When the story initially broke, Stabroek News had spoken with 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, the owner of DeSinco Trading Frank DeAbreu, who at the time was a member of the school’s 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.