July 19, 2019
Secondary Education on Canouan — No more Excuses

It is the responsibility of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines to provide its school age citizens with affordable access to primary and secondary education (grades 1 to 11) no matter where on the archipelago they live.

The Prime Minister has said that come September, the 20 children from the Canouan Government School who were successful in this year’s CPEA will be provided with secondary education at home, on Canouan. The Government must be held to this.

Another school year must not begin without children who live on Canouan being able to access secondary education in their home community. Too many families for too long have been made to endure the agony and expense of sending their pre-teen children to St Vincent to live with strangers; this must end now.

And while many view the absence of a secondary education program on Canouan problematic only for ‘Canouan people’, this is far from the truth. This missing link in our education system has caused and is causing serious social disruption in communities all over the country as more and more Vincentians, ordinarily resident on islands other than Canouan, take up jobs there.

As the parents move to the Grenadines in search of a brighter future, what becomes of the secondary school age children they leave behind? Some are left without adult supervision in the home, others with relatives who cannot or are unable or unwilling to be effective guardians. There is anecdotal evidence that these children, in their crucial pre-teen and teenage years experience higher than average levels of truancy, disciplinary problems and drop out. Parents who find work in the Grenadines must be able to take their children with them knowing that their children’s education will continue seamlessly there.

Ours is the Government that built a bridge over the Rabacca dry river and an international airport; it is this Government that created history by being the smallest nation to win a seat on the UN Security Council. When international agencies said we could not, this is the government that introduced universal access to secondary education within years of coming to power. Delivering secondary education to the children of Canouan in comparison, is simple.

And although the developers on Canouan have much to gain by constructing a school which would contribute to the peace of mind of their employees and the development of the community in which they are based, the education of Vincentians is not their responsibility. So any delays on their part in the delivery of a structure is not sufficient reason for classes on Canouan to be stalled any further.

The unit cost to provide basic services to isolated small groups of people of our multi-island state is astronomical. Everything must be replicated – health clinics, police stations, electricity plants, government offices and schools. But along with the added costs come benefits, including our diversity as a tourist destination and a vast seascape filled with opportunity.

The Prime Minister has said that almost $250 million has been earmarked for recurrent expenditure for secondary education on Canouan for the upcoming academic year through the payment of salaries, wages and other incidentals. This is enough to get started, even if the curriculum has to be delivered from a single room in a public building or a church.

We live in 2019, a time when Internet technologies make it possible to bring together, at minimum cost, people in far flung areas. The secondary program on Canouan can proceed with a few supervisory teachers whose work could be augmented by lessons presented by teachers in classrooms at other secondary schools around the country. Home schooling is also an option in situations where the numbers are just too small to justify teachers who are physically present. Let secondary education on Canouan begin. No more excuses.