Continued elitism and inequality in SVGs education

By Demion McTair. Updated 11:35 a.m., Tuesday, September 15, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).

Discussion: It is a happy and proud moment to see the continued strides being made by the St. Vincent Girls’ High School (GHS).

The latest innovation towards continued greatness is the implementation of a program where our outstanding girls can learn Mandarin.

The pilot project to add Mandarin to the GHS’ curriculum was initiated by Her Excellency Andrea Bowman, Ambassador of the Embassy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Taiwan. Bowman is also the resident Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Foreign Affairs Ministry says.

Form one students of the institution will now benefit from the pilot project .

Once successful, it is expected that the programme will be carried to other secondary Schools that are interested in expanding their foreign language curriculum.

This initiative adds to the Mandarin program taught at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College, the Foreign Affairs Minister says.

This is all well and good until we ask two questions:

1. Would another secondary school have been chosen to run this pilot project (Bethel High? Intermediate High? Central Leeward Secondary?), or are they deemed not bright enough?

2. Who is Andrea Bowman? Much of her life was spent as a famed principal of the GHS. She received a diplomatic position, saw a golden opportunity for enhancing educational development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines but thought about educational development through GHS lens.

Now, that in and of itself is not the problem. Mrs. Bowman will get some concession on the issue because the GHS deserves, by virtue of their performance, developments like this one.

The problem is that too many people see only through certain lenses when it comes to secondary education in St. Vincent. It is sad to say that a lot of principals and teachers who serve at other schools came from the GHS elitist environment and seek to protect the legacy of their alma mater, rather than unearthing the full potential of students at other secondary schools.

Some of these same individuals, when they take up high office, maintain the same elitist ideas, which in effect, inadvertently (and sometimes intentionally) stymie progress in other secondary schools at the expense of equality.

There are some schools where teachers tell students overtly that they prefer to be teaching at either the GHS or the Boys’ Grammar School. It is a backward deep-rooted culture that plays on the psyche of other students who may not be from emotionally strong environments, that they will never be good enough because of the school they attended.

Let’s not forget too that some schools still cannot get resources such as science laboratories to be able to offer the pure sciences. Why? It all rests in the end on how they are seen, stereotyped, and treated.

To break this culture, we need to randomly pick schools, pump resources, and allow for student development projects in the same way we do for the top schools. In this way, the results of other schools at CSEC will definitely improve as the students will feel more worth.

This is not a novel or unused suggestion. Some of the most qualified teachers, coaches, and personnel were taken out of other secondary schools in 2005 to create a strong team at the new Thomas Saunders Secondary School. The school suddenly qualified to take students in the top 500 for Common Entrance (now CPEA). The school even made Penn Relays.

All of the investments in that school were made because it was the government’s sacred cow and they did everything possible to make it successful. Today, in 2020, some 15 years later, the TSSS remains one of the top performing schools in the country.

This clearly shows that if we want to create more top schools, we can. We simply need to break the elitist mindset that some schools will always be great while others are destined to be average.

The remarkable success stories of students from these ‘average schools’ academically and professionally, even outside the borders of St. Vincent show that the school you attend should not define you.

Now, some may argue that new school buildings were constructed for some of these schools and all teachers are trained. Yes, that is true. It does not, however, exclude them from an existing culture which instructs even the teachers as to their worth based on where they teach.

Evidence of this is that when a lot of these teachers produced good CSEC results, they are either removed to ‘the better schools’ or offered opportunities to teach them.

Perhaps, we need to ensure that a certain percentage of teachers in our ‘average schools’ formally attended these schools so that there’s a greater chance of the love

Even Sir Louis Straker, Deputy Prime Minister, has repeatedly called for the breaking of the elitist culture surrounding our secondary schools. We can do it and we must work towards it.

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