GUYANA: Fire destroys Christ Church Secondary School in Georgetown

– second fire in 8 days, 502 students displaced

By Shervin Belgrave

The western end of the Christ Church Secondary School being burnt to the ground.

  • Jan 13, 2023– Kaieteur News – First time lucky, second time not, this is the story of the Christ Church Secondary School located on Middle and Camp Streets that was destroyed by a massive fire on Thursday afternoon.

It was only last Wednesday that “quick response and diligent work” by the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) reportedly saved the school from being burnt down but this week firefighters could not prevent it. Yesterday’s fire reportedly erupted close to 17:00 hrs. Eyewitnesses recalled seeing thick smoke emanating from the western end of the building. Some small explosions were reportedly heard before flames were seen.     

When Kaieteur News arrived at the scene, firefighters were already there but the entire building was engulfed in flames. The blaze was so intense that onlookers scampered for cover to avoid the heat. Multiple explosions were heard as the burning wood continued to fall from the building.

Firefighters braved the heat and did their best to contain the fire but, but could not save the school. Up to press time last evening, firefighters were still on the scene containing the flames that remained.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand was present at the scene. She told Kaieteur News that the fire has displaced some 502 students who were attending classes there. “The loss of this school will see 502 children, 39 teachers not having a place to turn up to educate and be educated”, Manickchand said while adding “any school destroyed is really a sad fate for education generally, for those children in particular and their families”.

It is unclear at this time as to what might have ignited the massive blaze.  However, eight days ago when the first fire erupted there, it was reported that it started in the school’s science laboratory. The school was closed to facilitate an investigation and was only reopened for classes last Monday.

The GFS has confirmed that the science lab fire last week was caused by a “chemical reaction combustion”. Kaieteur News understands that the highly flammable chemicals were removed from the building last week. “Everything [chemicals] was cleared from the building,” a source close to the investigation told this publication.

Investigators are now trying to determine the cause of Thursday’s fire which has displaced hundreds of students.

A Brief history of Christ Church Secondary School

Jan 13, 2023- Kaieteur News – Did you know in August 1964, Christ Church was a Primary School? Prior to August 1964, some schools had both Primary and Secondary Departments. Some of them were Christ Church Primary, St. Ambrose Anglican, Kingston Methodist and St. George’s Anglican Schools. In September 1964, the PPP Government of Guyana, in an effort to promote free secondary education, had its first experiment.     

Christ Church Secondary School 

In this experiment, the Secondary Departments of St. George’s Anglican Schools were merged with the Secondary Department of Christ Church Anglican, to form the presently known Christ Church Secondary School. This also meant that the Primary Department of Christ Church was dissolved, and the students of this Department were transferred to the Primary Departments of St. Ambrose, Kingston Methodist, and St. George’s Anglican Schools, based on their area of residence. Additionally, teachers from those aforementioned schools who were desirous of teaching at CCSS were given the opportunity to do so.

Some were the late William (Billy) Braithwaite, Charles Daniels and Desmond Saul from St. Ambrose; Edwy Ross, Robert Bobb and Olive Killekenny from St. George’s; George Stewart, Ms. McKenzie and Phyllis Crawford from Christ Church Primary.

These teachers began the journey with CCSS and were led by the then Principal, Basil Armstrong. In reflecting on CCSS’s history, few head-teachers who are important to mention are Mr. McDonald, Mr. Kendall (Shaft), Mr. Vieira, Ms. Mason, Mr. Stewart and Ms. Carr. (Extracted from the Christ Church Secondary School of Guyana, Alumni Association of New York, Inc.)

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