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A Place for Every Student - April 10, 2006

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A Place for Every Student



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.


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.


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 otherwise.

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 education.”

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 university
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 universities.


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 reality.


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 Lucia.

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 resources permit. 


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 875 students.

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.


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