Minister of Education Ronald Jones has challenged entrepreneurs here to get into the school construction business.
Speaking this morning at the opening of a state-of-the-art White Hall, St Pater-based St Luke’s Academy founded by business magnate Bjorn Bjerkhamn, Jones said education was big business and the local private sector should grab the opportunity.
The minister said while education was gradually being seen as an economic frontier here, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find space from which new schools could operate.
He listed as examples, four medical schools which had been granted permission to operate in Barbados – with a fifth on the waiting list – but which were having a hard time finding appropriate buildings to establish the schools.
“Some enterprising businessman can say, ‘you know something, you want a school, I will build it for you and this is what you will pay per month, per year, per quarter. This is your place you use it, you pay the money’. So they can concentrate on what they are good at,” Jones suggested.
The minister pointed to another concern – that of finding homes for students from abroad who wished to pursue their education here.
He said at present Government was facing a challenge placing 16 students, and he suggested that the private sector considers constructing secondary schools that also offer housing.
“I want a few secondary schools with a residential component because we are getting some calls from over and away, especially Barbadians who would have gone up to England and Canada and the United States for a while, say ‘we want our children to be educated in my homeland’. We have to create that, we have not been able to do it to date,” he said.
“I am opening it in to any business person – architects, people who build, people who got rock stones – let we do something,” Jones added.
St Luke’s Academy is an expansion of the preschool, Casa Dei Bambini, which is headed by Bjerkham’s daughter Angelique Edwards, who will also be principal at the new school catering to students from 18 months to 11 years.
It has multi-age Montessori classrooms for the younger students, and sets out to nurture the family atmosphere and create a sense of community.
The curriculum will include a comprehensive Montessori primary programme to complement the syllabus set by the Ministry of Education.
Jones, who welcomed the school into the education system, lauded its vision, mission and values and particularly the timeline in which the structure was built.
“I can say to you that you can continue to rely on the Ministry of Education as a facilitator wherever necessary and wherever possible. We have a national curriculum, but the curriculum is opened for tweaking,” Jones promised.
Delivering remarks, Bjerkhamn said while he felt a sense of accomplishment, he would like other businesses to come forward and invest in the country, and not just put their profits in their back pockets and look to Government to do it all.
“Our embarking on this project will confirm our confidence in the future of our country, which is still the leader in the Caribbean with a stable Government,” Bjerkhamn said.
The school will hold an open day next Wednesday giving the public the opportunity to tour the facility and explore its offerings.