A rebuild of the Althea Scatliffe Primary School in Road Town is among the education projects set to start this year under a memorandum of understanding signed Monday between government and the Sir Richard Branson-backed non-profit organisation Unite BVI.

The five-year MOU “will be the guiding force behind a myriad of projects that will unfold over this timeframe,” Education, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie de Castro said during a signing ceremony.

The three main projects for this year are the ASPS reconstruction; the renovation of Willard Wheatley Primary School in East End; and the purchase of playground equipment for five primary schools. Before the MOU, Unite BVI, which is registered in the Virgin Islands, had assisted the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports with a variety of projects, including funding renovations to assist with the relocation of about 330 students after ASPS was closed in June 2022 and then demolished last April due to structural issues.

“In a sense, it is only fitting that Unite BVI now has a stake in the rebuild of the Mighty, Mighty Scatliffe — a symbol of resilience and the unwavering spirit of collaboration,” Ms. de Castro said of what was previously the territory’s largest primary school.

Willard Wheatley

At Willard Wheatley Primary, some works have already been initiated by the ministry, but Ms. de Castro said the “generous support of Unite BVI ensures that critical additional works will be undertaken.”

She did not specify which primary schools would be receiving the playground equipment. Donation policy

During previous collaborations, Unite BVI and government recognised the need to formalise their partnership, according to the minister.

“It became evident that to nurture this relationship and align our visions for the development of education, we needed more than verbal agreements,” she said. “Thus, ink was put to paper, birthing not only [an MOU] but also crafting a pioneering document — the first of its kind in government: a Donation Policy for the Ministry of Education.”

Dr. Sauda Smith, the executive trustee for Unite BVI, praised the move.

“This new policy will ensure that any gift offered to this territory in support of the enhancement of the education sector will be accepted and stewarded within the parameters of best philanthropic practices and good governance,” Dr. Smith said.

Future of education

Orlandette Crabbe, the acting chief of education officer, described the MOU as a shift in education in the territory.

“This event marks not just the conclusion of negotiations, but the dawn of a transformative journey that promises to shape the future of education in this remarkable territory,” she said during the ceremony.

Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley called on other community members to contribute to education in any way they can.

“I’m saying to you, we don’t need millions to be able to do our part,” he said. “If it’s just $1, if it’s just $10. If you don’t have any money at all, what about your time? What about your mentorship? What about your collaboration? What is it that all of us can do to unite with this vision?”