Vice President of the University of The Bahamas (UB) North campus, Dr. Ian Strachan said that he is hopeful to acquire a more permanent location in the downtown area of Freeport for the institution, following the destruction at the school site as a result of Hurricane Dorian early in September.
UB classes resumed almost two weeks ago at Bishop Michael Eldon School and the Teachers Credit Union Building; however, Dr. Strachan is adamant about finding a central location.
“The distance of the campus was a challenge,” he explained. “It was expensive for students. It was off-putting, for working adults who wanted to continue their education. And so, I think, the opportunity is here for us to make a big investment in Grand Bahama, in Downtown Freeport, that will be recession proof, because people always need to get an education.
“You will find then that businesses will have more clients; more students will attend, and there will be more energy in the Downtown area.”
He noted that this is the vision of UB’s officials moving forward, hence location for relocation is already being looked at.
“We believe that we have identified an ideal one and we are talking with the government and talking with the owners of that property about, hopefully, being able to turn that into the new campus.
“We would love to see an announcement made, hopefully, by Fall 2020 that we have identified a campus and have begun to inhabit it; that is our goal,” said Dr. Strachan.
Questioned if the property UB North is scoping is vacant land or already has a structure in place, Dr. Strachan replied, “I do not want to say which property it is yet, but I can tell you that we are looking at something which is already built because that will just make the transition a lot easier. We are trying to avoid things that could end up being protracted. We are trying to be pragmatic about it and so, we are looking at built spaces that we can use.
“A decision was made to build (UB North) out there. I understand the decision; it was about trying to encourage economic growth in another part of the island, but it did not happen at the pace that they would have hoped. There is no shame is saying that we are going to rethink this and we are going to revisit this and come at it again, from a different direction.
“The Port (Grand Bahama Port Authority) was incredibly generous in terms of giving to the university, and we appreciate what they have done. We hope that they will continue to be a partner with us as we try to grow the University of The Bahamas North, but we know that we have to make a shift, a pivot,” said Dr. Strachan.
“Even when we return there, we have to also look at how we rebuild it because it does not make sense to just put things back the way they were, because another storm could come and destroy it.
Even the structures that are there, we have to reimagine, even in light of what we have learned.
“Really and truly, there are broad implications for the whole country and I hope that the conference (UB’s Sustainable Grand Bahama Conference 2020) brings that out; everything from how we educate every citizen, how homes are built, everything,” he added.
“For instance, you cannot graduate citizens that cannot swim. It is as basic as that and so, do we have the infrastructure in place to make sure that every child that comes to your schools can swim; whatever their economic background, it should not be that you must be a private school educated, middle-class child, to be able to have access to a pool and learn how to swim.
“Things of that sort are what we should be focusing on as we prepare this generation and future generations to respond to the climate change and respond to the risks that are out there every year during hurricane season,” concluded Dr. Strachan.