Our Readers' Opinions
October 19, 2007

Education revolution impacting the Grenadines

by Edwin Snagg 19.OCT.07

The Revolution in Education has great impact for the Grenadines, unlike any other area in SVG.

A recap of the historical struggle of the Grenadines people with relation to education will reveal some events that will now be considered grossly unacceptable.{{more}}

The people of Bequia were slightly more fortunate than those further south. At least they had the Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School. Those who attended school on the mainland lodged with friends or relatives.

Let those who fail to embrace or endorse the revolution be reminded of the pain of the students of the Bequia SDA Secondary who journeyed to Port Kingstown to write the G.C.E exams in 1971. What a mammoth task to carry desks from the St. Mary’s R.C School through the streets of Kingstown, only to find no space to put them, first at the Grammar School, then at the Girls’ High School. Eventually space was found in the Veranda of the Peace Memorial Hall.

The validity of the above can be confirmed by Anthony Ollivierre and Herman Belmar, now principal of the Mountain View Academy and Deputy Director of Grenadines Affairs respectively, both of whom were among that class.

Mr. Ollivierre will recount his ugly experience of seeing his exams papers blown from his desk by the wind onto the street below and was refused the permission to retrieve them by the Education Officer whose name I prefer to withhold. Your conclusion is right. Of course, he failed.

What about the G.C.E teacher candidates who were not allowed to sign up for the exams because they didn’t attend the classes at Extra Mural Kingstown. How could they when the ferry ‘Friendship Rose’ left Bequia at 6:00 am and Port Kingstown at 1:00 pm. For the haters of the Revolution, those teachers wrote the exams in Carriacou as Grenadines. Not true, you may say. Then ask Monica English.

The students of Canouan, Mayreau and Union Island all attended Secondary school on mainland. My mother recounted showering in all her clothes after landing in Port Kingstown drenched in other peoples vomit on a sloop smaller than the “Federal Queen” to register my younger brother at secondary school.

Our parents paid for boarding and lodging through the years to facilitate the pursuit of a better education, providing money, corn fish, conch, lobster etc, to facilitate the tolerance of the boarders. Mention must be made of the many that were sympathetic to the cause and reached out to three and four students at a time. At one time a lamp was sent because lights came off at a certain time when study and homework had to be done.

The socio economic factor came heavily into play. Only those who could afford were able to send their children to mainland; choices sometimes had to be made and many with great potential were left behind – a far cry from today.

1972 brought some relief as the Cato Administration saw the need for the Union Island Secondary School. It was built to house eighty students, and gave relief to many. As it still is today, the difficulty of staffing with qualified teachers proved a problem. Finding teachers willing to go to the area was a task, and still is.

The migratory pattern of the Grenadines people saw the exodus of the few who were graduates, not a strange phenomenon in such communities. The ambitious nature of the Grenadines folk saw them reaching for higher ideals and greener pastures.

Commendation of the couple university graduates who showed the communal patriotism can never be enough. The current principal and deputy are outstanding examples. The immediate past principal of U.I.S.S, though originally from the mainland, still offers his services, despite retirement. What commitment to education!!

Today, every child has an opportunity to grace the small corridors of a secondary school in the Grenadines. The schools are at their full capacity and U.I.S.S is overcrowded. The vision of the Learning Resource Centre bearing instant fruit is evident, as my spontaneous decision to place the 5th form in the Union Island (LRC) provided extra space, and the computer lab is fully utilized as IT is now re-introduced.

The EDPM (Electronic Document Preparation and Management) is now being done at the CSEC level. The adult literacy classes and other educational workshops are also elements of the vision.

Construction of the new secondary school at Campbell is a mandatory project. The limitations of Science Education without a proper laboratory puts the island students at a great disadvantage, not being able to do Physics. Although Chemistry and Biology are taught, it’s under extreme circumstances.

The new school houses twelve (12) classrooms, state of the art equipment and family apartments to house teachers in the scientific disciplines and other critical subject areas. This school will serve the entire Southern Grenadines, and the second phase will see the construction of the student’s dorm to facilitate students from neighbouring islands – a novel and forward thinking idea which goes to the root of the age old problems.

In the light of these developments, the stage is set for further enhancement of a people, empowerment and poverty alleviation through education. All noble efforts to achieve these ideals must be applauded by the populace across all boundaries and alignments.

Tolerance must be executed by those who experience difficulties in the vicinity of the construction site, such as dust, noise and other temporary factors. One must view the greater good and let it overweigh the bad, for the children’s sake and long live the revolution in Education! Victory draweth nigh!