A Place for Every Student
AN UNUSUAL CONVERSATION
Good Day, Saint Lucia.
Quite recently, a parent shared with me a very unusual conversation she had with
her son. As with many other parents, she chastised her son for watching
television instead of preparing for the upcoming Common Entrance Exams. But her
son replied that she should not worry, “because the Education Minister had said
that very soon, under Universal secondary Education, every child will get a
place in secondary school.” His point was: Why study when a place for him in
secondary school is guaranteed?
Obviously, this young man is wrong. He still needs to study because it is the
quality of his results that will ultimately determine which secondary school he
will eventually attend.
There are many other parents who find themselves in a similar predicament.
Homework and study may no longer matter because it is believed that a place will
be available in a secondary school for every child. We have to discourage this
thinking because Universal Secondary Education cannot be about
under-achievement. Parents must continue to inspire their children to help them
realise their gifts and potential.
Bearing all of this in mind, I decided to dedicate today’s Conversation to the
concept of Universal Secondary Education and to explain why it is such an
important development for the future of our country.
WHY A PROBLEM?
Some of you may well wonder why, after 27 years of independence, Saint Lucia was
unable to provide every child with a place in a secondary school. To hear it
from Sir John Compton in his address to the “National Council” of the UWP in
Micoud recently, “There has been a great deal of talk about Universal Secondary
Education. This is a policy actively pursued by the Government of the United
Workers Party. From four secondary schools in 1964 with an enrolment of less
than one thousand to 16 secondary schools of 12,000.”
It was an active policy of the UWP, Sir John claims, but yet, up to 1997, he
and his team were unable to provide 50% of primary school students with places
in secondary schools. In fact, here is the historical record. In 1987, under Sir
John and the UWP, only 28% of primary school children were assigned to secondary
schools. That number increased to 43% in 1996. In 2005, however, under this
administration, the number climbed to 60%. In 2006/07, this Government hopes to
take it to 100% of all eligible primary school students.
EDUCATION: THE CURE TO POVERTY
Why is Universal Secondary Education so vital to our future?
As I indicated in my New Year's Address to the nation, since assuming office in
1997, this Government has emphasised that economic growth is not incompatible
with social re-engineering.
Given the importance of education to our developmental process, its role in
dismantling socio-economic barriers, walls of injustice and prejudice, this
Government has relentlessly pursued the goal of attaining Universal Secondary
Education. Without education there can be no empowerment individually or
In essence, this Government believes in the dictum of our esteemed Nobel
Laureate, Sir Arthur Lewis, that “the cure for poverty is not money, but
But secondary education is vital for other reasons. Few can make it to
University or other tertiary institutions without a secondary education. As a
developing country, at least 10% of our secondary school population should enjoy
education. However, as of now, only 4% make it to university. It is only by
expanding access to secondary education that we can improve the numbers at
A MONUMENTAL MILESTONE
There can be no doubt that the attainment of Universal Secondary Education will
be a monumental milestone in our development. Since assuming office, we have
worked steadily towards the achievement of that goal. It is finally becoming a
MAKING MORE SPACES AVAILABLE…
How are we going to achieve it?
During the tenure of this Government, four new secondary schools have been
built. The construction of these four new secondary schools has increased
considerably the existing stock of secondary school places available in Saint
The construction of three more secondary schools will serve to further augment
the available stock of secondary school places. Construction has already begun
on two of these new schools at Gros Islet and in Marigot.
The Gros Islet Secondary School is being built on 8.32 acres of land at Massade.
It will contain 20 classrooms, three science labs, one computer lab, one
learning resource centre, an art room, segregated sick bays for male and female
students, a staff room, offices for the principal, the vice principal, the
school bursar and school counsellors and an auditorium designed to accommodate
1,000 persons. This school, when completed, will be a four-stream five-form
secondary school designed to accommodate 700 students.
The Marigot Secondary School will be built on 10 acres of land alongside the
Marigot Playing Field. It too will also contain 20 classrooms, three science
labs, one computer lab, one learning resource centre, segregated sick bays, a
staff room, offices for the principal, the vice principal, the school bursar and
school counsellors. This school will also be a four-stream five-form secondary
school designed to accommodate 700 students.
In order to meet the stock of secondary school places required to make Universal
Secondary Education a reality, the Grande Riviere Senior Primary School will
also be transformed into a full-fledged secondary school. A new three-storey
concrete structure will be constructed on the existing site. An existing
building will be expanded and upgraded to make provisions for specialist rooms,
an existing toilet facility will be upgraded, a wooden building on the compound
will be repaired and the school site will be landscaped. The new secondary
school will contain between 15 and 20 classrooms, two science labs, one computer
lab, an auto mechanics room, a learning resource centre, a home economics room
and the appropriate administrative facilities. The school will be either
three-stream or four-stream, accommodating between 525 and 700 students as
EXPANSION, UPGRADING AND REHABILITATION
In addition, three existing secondary schools, namely, the Choiseul Secondary,
the Clendon Mason Memorial Secondary School and St. Mary’s College, will be
expanded, upgraded and rehabilitated.
A new building will be constructed on the compound of the Choiseul Secondary
School. An existing building on that site will be expanded and all existing
buildings will be given a
facelift. The school will be expanded from its present capacity of 525 students
to 700 students. When the expansion is completed the school will be transformed
from a three stream to a four stream five form secondary school.
A third floor containing six classrooms will be added to the existing
accommodation of the Clendon Mason Memorial Secondary School in Dennery.
Existing rooms in the school will be refurbished and reorganised. Particular
attention will be paid to science labs, a learning resource centre and
accommodation for teachers. The school will be expanded from its present
capacity of 550 students to a four stream five form secondary school
accommodating 700 students.
St. Mary’s College will also undergo major expansion. The college, which is
currently a four-stream secondary school, will be transformed into a five-stream
secondary school. On completion, St. Mary College will accommodate as many as
AT LONG LAST!
All these investments in our education infrastructure will ensure that
Universal Secondary Education becomes a reality.
As I did three months ago, I again salute Hon. Mario Michel, our Minister of
Education, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports on this remarkable
achievement. We owe him a debt of gratitude. He has made it possible for every
child to get a place at a Secondary School.
What appeared impossible has been achieved. Every parent can now be secure in
the knowledge that a daughter or son will no longer have to end their
educational career on the benches of a primary school.
This is a signal achievement that we can and must all be proud of. Indeed, we
are giving full and true meaning to Sir Arthur Lewis’ admonition that “the cure
for poverty is not money, but education.”
Until next week, may God bless our teachers and our students; and, of course,
may the Good Lord bless and keep you, till we speak again.