September 09, 2016
The Minister of Tourism and Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini, the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe, on Thursday, September 8, said the Ground Breaking and Contract Signing Ceremony for the West Grand Bahama Junior High School was a proud moment for him.
The site will be home to the $11.5 million school, the first to be built in West Grand Bahama since 1967, and is expected to be completed within 18 months.
The Minister told of a night in 1999 when he, along with John Martin and Hilton Bowleg were driving, and he pointed to the site where the school will be constructed and said, "John, we are going to put the high school right here."
He said, "We dreamt about this day," and described himself as a ‘happy camper’.
Minister Wilchcombe paid tribute to two educators from the area, Walter Parker and Sandra Edgecombe, stating that Mr. Parker was the reason many Bahamians from small communities have opportunities because he taught them, gave them an education and made them great Bahamians. Mrs. Edgecombe was in charge of the West Grand Bahama District and spent many years at the Eight Mile Rock High School. Describing her as "an outstanding woman" and a "tremendous leader" who made the students believe they could be what they wanted to be.
Many Parliamentarians, members of the clergy, government officials and residents of West Grand Bahama were on hand on Thursday, September 8, 2016 for the Ground Breaking and Contract Signing Ceremony for the West Grand Bahama Junior High School. Giving the keynote address was Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie. Also addressing the gathering were: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Renewal, the Hon. Philip Davis; Minister of Tourism and Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama, the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe; Minister of Education, the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald; and Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville. Minister of Transport and Aviation, the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, was also present for the ceremony. (BIS Photo/Vandyke Hepburn)
"I remember them today as we pay tribute to people who have come from nowhere to give us opportunities and ensure that all Bahamians can rise up and be leaders in their country.
"But Eight Mile Rock High School is a story of West Grand Bahama and the High School. We didn't have one in the 50s and 60s. It was because of the work of two mothers who thought that their children should not have to travel to Nassau for high school education. They stood up, they protested, they petitioned the UBP government, and the UBP government then heard them." Geneva Martin, who passed away in 2015 and Olga Outten, who was present at the ceremony.
Not until 1967 when the Progressive Liberal Party won the government, continued Minister Wilchcombe, that Eight Mile Rock High School was built.
"Women like Olga caused us to have a high school because we were the forgotten area. We weren't supposed to have, because if you were from the West, you weren't supposed to be anything. But the truth is the people from the West have risen up and today we play roles in leading our country."
He thanked Mrs. Outten on behalf of the thousands of students who have passed through Eight Mile Rock High School. "It was because of women like you who believed, who fought and who gave all you had."
Minister Wilchcombe then thanked those colleagues who helped make it all happen: Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip Davis, Minister of Works and Urban Development; the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald, Minister of Education, Science and Technology; and the Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville.
He said, "Many times we've sat together. We've flown across the seas and it's always been about the people. We've sat at tables and talked about the future, but it's always been about the people. We've talked about the needs of our community, the needs of our people because those who don't understand we have inherited an organization, we are a part of a body that believes that people are more important than things and that men and women are more important than machines.
Minister of Tourism and Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini, the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe, described the Ground Breaking and Contract Signing Ceremony for the West Grand Bahama Junior High School on Thursday, September 8, 2016 as a proud day for him. (BIS Photo/Vandyke Hepburn)
"So in all we do, it's about ensuring that the people of our country receive opportunities. And the people of our country are those little ones who tomorrow will have to lead and play roles in our communities, and there is no way that this little Bahamas, a little Bahamas that has been able to produce leaders of all kinds, should not have people from West Grand Bahama playing their roles."
Minister Wilchcombe saluted the teachers and educators, those who were present as well as those who have passed away, who have given so much.
"Prime Minister I want to thank you because those who don't know the Prime Minister will not appreciate his love for education. They will not appreciate that he was told once that he could not learn and was pushed out of school. That he had to show that he had it within him. And there was an educator, Donald Davis, who reached back for him and today he sits as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
"Our Prime Minister's," he continued, "is a story that needs to be told to many young people who believe that opportunities fly past them when they make a mistake. For those who believe that in the classroom you're not a good student so you don't have a future. For those who have given up, have lost that hope. The truth is, we have a man who sits at the very top. Who understands and who knows the importance of the classroom, who understands the importance of the teacher, who understands the importance of that determination."
Also addressing the ceremony were Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie; Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip Davis, Minister of Works and Urban Renewal; the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald, Minister of Education, Science and Technology; and Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville. Minister of Transport and Aviation, the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, was also present for the ceremony.
Following the keynote address by Prime Minister Christie, there was the contract signing and ground breaking.
By Robyn Adderley
Bahamas Information Services