Our Readers' Opinions
August 19, 2011
The National Student Council was initiated and sustained by the National Youth Council

Fri, Aug 19. 2011

Editor: I write in response to a letter by Mr. Colin CASH Haywood in the Friday, 12th August, 2011 issue of the Weekend Searchlight. First, I must commend Mr. Haywood for his useful suggestions aimed at enhancing the discipline in our schools. Unfortunately, his claim that “…{{more}}the formation of the National Student Council (NSC) was initiated in the early 1990’s by Israel Bruce and Colin Haywood, teachers of the North Union Secondary School…” is totally inaccurate! The National Student Council was initiated and sustained by the National Youth Council (NYC) of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The idea of reviving Student Councils ( Unions) and forming a National Student Council was first discussed at a meeting held between an NYC’s delegation and the then Minister of state with responsibility for Youth, Hon. Jerry Scott on August 22nd ,1984. After several “in -house” discussions, the idea was eventually concretized at a Conference of Delegates meeting held in early 1988. The Vincentian Newspaper of 12th February, 1988 reported that P.R.O. St. Clair ‘Jimmy” Prince identified the formation of a National Student Movement as one of the areas of focus for the NYC’S 1988-89 programme.

Consequently, the NYC organized a series of National Student Consultations in 1988, 1989 and 1990 to realize this goal. The consultations, according to an Evaluation Report on the NYC done by Didacus Jules and Ans Ursem for HIVOS, sought to “sensitize students as to their role in national development, offer students the opportunity to critically examine the education system and explore the possibilities of the formation of a national student body”. The 1989 and 1990 Consultations were organized to coincide with International Students Day, observed each year on November, 17th.

The 1988 National Student Consultation was held on 23rd September at the UWI Extra Mural Center. It was a resounding success. Representatives from seventeen of the twenty one secondary schools attended. The students were urged to form student councils by all the speakers, among whom were Dr. Adrian Fraser, Ms, Joy Browne of SVUT and Mr. Earnest Hillaire of the NYC St. Lucia and the Caribbean Federation of Youth (CFY).

The 1989 Consultation was held at the Jaycees Complex at Stony Ground. Once again most of the secondary schools were represented. There were however, only four active student councils in attendance.

The students therefore pledged to redouble their efforts to form student councils in their respective institutions.

The success of their efforts was reflected at the third national Consultation held on November 16th 1990. Twenty of the twenty-one secondary schools were present among which were eleven active student councils. The National Student Council was formally launched at this consultation.

This launching marked the culmination of three years of dialogue and discussions among secondary school students from throughout St.Vincent and the Grenadines that were facilitated by the NYC and enthusiastically embraced by the students.

The first executive Committee comprised:

Harvey Graham (NUSS), President; Patrick Prescod (SVGS), First Vice President; Leslie Samuel (SMSS), Second Vice President; Nandi Williams (GHS), Secretary; Denise Ashton (SJCK), Treasurer; Dahlia Browne ((SCJK), Assistant Secretary-Treasurer; St. Claire Herbert (SMSS), PRO; Glendon Jackson (NUSS) and Dwight ‘Bing’ Joseph committee members.

I was at all the consultations either as General Secretary or President of the NYC. I remember Israel Bruce as one of the delegates of the New Adelphi Secondary School and Mr. Haywood as a teacher assigned to the NUSS Student Council which according to the January 1989 issue of the NYC’s newsletter FLAME was the third of the councils formed after the 1988 Consultation. Neither of the two was involved in the leadership of the Movement. They were subsequently elected to the NYC’s Executive Committee representing community organizations with Bruce attaining the office of President.

The National Student Council was a vibrant organization in the 1990s. It was appointed to serve on the government Student Loan Committee and had healthy relationships with St. Lucia Youth Council’s Student Branch, OCLAE ( an organization for Caribbean and Latin American Students) and the International Unions of students (IUS). These relationships facilitated training and exposure of many of the leaders of the NSC. In addition to those elected to the first Executive Committee, the list includes (but is not limited to) Margaret Lewis, Elfreda and Cicyln Joseph (MSS), Raphel John and Roy George (CSS), Vynette Frederick, Corine Crick and Debra Robinson (GHS), Nicolette Balcombe(NUSS) and Ridley Peters (BCK).

Unfortunately with the decline of the local NYC there was a corresponding decline in the NSC. I agree with Mr. Haywood that there is need for student Councils and a National Student Council. Students can use these organizations to contribute to their own achievement and ultimately national success. We must therefore strive once again to build awareness among students of the important role that these organizations can play in the general improvement of theirs and school life. But let us not, in our effort to do so, fail through inaccuracies to give credit to those to whom credit is due!

Curtis M. King