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Life on Ragged Is. not without its challenges

DUNCAN TOWN, Ragged Island – A young Ragged Island resident had a message for the government on Friday.

“I want my school to finish, please,” said Cianna Maycock, a seven-year-old second-grade student.

She added, “I’m ready to go to school. There ain’t nothing to do and there ain’t no school in Ragged Island.”

Cianna said she wants to be able to learn in a classroom.

The island’s all-age school was destroyed when Hurricane Irma tore through Ragged Island in September 2017.

While significant progress has been made rebuilding the school on top of a little hill in Duncan Town, it is unlikely that the school will be completed when the academic year starts later this month.

Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper, the MP for the island, said it’s a matter of putting “the finishing touches” on the school.

He said the government will look at a makeshift solution until that is done.

Nearly five years since Irma, there is still no police station or clinic on the island. Defense force marines function as law enforcement and medics for the residents.

Ragged Island’s clinic will likely not be completed for another year, according to Cooper, who added that a nurse will be deployed to the island next month. 

The administrator’s office still looks as it did after the storm: roofless with items shattered on the floor.

Some homes still have significant roof damage while others look like construction was started then halted.

Before Irma, Ragged Island had a population of about 100. Now, the population ranges from 60 to 65, according to officials.

According to Dwaniqueka Bethel, 26, who has lived on the island since she was 15, residents are starting to return.

“After the hurricane, it was really bad but now things are starting to catch itself and starting to normalize,” she said.

“It ain’t that bad anymore. We’re getting a school and we’re getting a clinic. Other than that, the industry itself is picking up and the people are starting to come back home.” 

However, life on Ragged Island remains “rough”, she said.

Wayne Cartwright, 66, who married a Ragged Islander and spends half of the year on the island, agreed with Bethel.

“I figure if you can live on Ragged Island, you can live anywhere in this Bahamas,” he said.

“I always send out a 100-day challenge to any husband and wife to come down here and see what it’s like. It’s hard down here in Ragged Island with the distance from Nassau to here, which could be some 300 odd miles.

“We don’t have any airline service other than the government people who will come in every now and then … So, you have to wait sometimes a week, sometimes two weeks, sometimes three weeks before the mail boat gets here.”

As a result, residents learn how to manage supplies, including water, he said.

Cartwright said water is “the biggest shortage” on the island.

“You can walk to any beach and pick up a conch or throw out your line and fish,” he said.

“When it comes to sugar, rice, flour and stuff like that, we have to wait for [those].”

Responding to the residents who said life is still difficult on the island, Cooper said, “He who feels it knows it. They have lived through much neglect of the former administration for four years. We are finally seeing much headway and will continue our commitment to bring relief to the people of Ragged Island.” 

On Friday, officials commissioned a $5 million solar micro-grid, completed by Bahamas Power and Light (BPL), on the island.