UB students return to classes

BACK IN CLASS – University of The Bahamas students returned to classes, following Hurricane Dorian. The storm destroyed a major portion of the campus, forcing officials to secure alternative premises. Students are pictured during class section at BMES.(PHOTO: JENNEVA RUSSELL)

Despite University of The Bahamas Northern Campus experiencing tremendous damage, the institution’s officials say they remain committed to providing quality tertiary education to their students. 

UB North’s facility, which is located on Grand Bahama Highway, East Grand Bahama, was completely devastated as Hurricane Dorian pounded the eastern end of the island. 

However, officials moved quickly to secure premises and students have already returned to their classes. In an interview with this daily, at the new temporary location in the downtown area of Freeport, UB’s North Vice President Dr. Ian Strachan said that the university was committed to the resumption of its 2019 Fall semester. 

“Obviously, we, like everyone else on Grand Bahama, endured an historic meteorological event which will probably go down as the most destructive storm that we have seem in modern Bahamian history. It had serious implications for our campus, because essentially, it made it unusable at this time. 

“The entire ground floor of the main classroom and administrative block was gutted and so, we lost our library, we lost a number of our classrooms, we lost all of our main administrative offices – business office, records, vice president’s office, deans etcetera. 

“The clinic, the tuck shop, all those things were wiped out,” said Strachan. “Our vehicles were pretty much inundated with water and then of course, our brand-new residence hall (Hawksbill Hall), which we just opened up in May of the previous year, sustained significant damage. 

“Its ground floor was gutted. It is made of containers and at least one of the containers dislodged and so it was very disruptive.” 

He noted that the institution was closed, basically, for a month; however, reopened on Monday, September 30. 

“We met after the storm and we determined that we were going to reconvene the semester. We know that doing so was important for Grand Bahama to try to recover some kind of normalcy. We have people who are seniors and are so close to graduating that we did not want to disrupt them and so, everyone was prepared to do whatever they had to do to make that happen,” Strachan added.

Despite the challenges, Strachan expressed gratitude and appreciation to the staff and administration for their impeccable service, affording the students to return to the classrooms in such a timely manner. 

“I am very, very proud of the team. We were able to pull it off. It required us to change some of our schedules around, mainly the morning classes we have shifted to evenings or weekends, because we did not have a daytime space. 

“Fortunately, this space (Teacher and Salaried Workers’ Union Building) on West Atlantic Drive) was unaffected. So, we have three classrooms and offices here. We basically set this up as our headquarters and we are using communal office spaces. We are trying to be really creative about how we use the space and out time etcetera,” he explained.

Additionally, Strachan said that UB North has partnered with Bishop Michael Eldon School (BMES), to have access to several classrooms. 

“The Anglican church has been very generous to us to, giving us access to nine classrooms and three laboratories. That is where the majority of our classes are being offered in the evenings and weekends. 

“We have also set up a 24-hour student laboratory here (downtown location), because we realize that a lot of the kids would have lost their home computers, may not have Internet or not even electricity. And so, we wanted this to be a 24-hour space so that people can always come here, even on the weekends. Classes do not end until 8:00 p.m. on some days, but all through the night they can stay and work, do whatever they have to do and have access to the Internet and computers,” he explained. 

“That is where we are in terms of our response, and we are very encouraged. We know that a number of our students went to Hampton University, to study abroad, just under 50 of them. We also know that fewer than 50 of them transferred to the Nassau campus of UB. 

“We want to thank our colleagues in Nassau who were very, very supportive, in terms of opening up classes, helping those young people find housing, etcetera. They have also been sending us lots of relief supplies and so, we are very grateful. 

“It has really been inspiring to see all of the generosity that has poured out to Grand Bahama over the course of this storm. It has really been incredible to see, the churches and other international organizations that have come in, it has been really inspiring,” said Strachan. 

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