“You do your part and I do my part for you.” — Dr Ralph E. Gonsalves
The Education Revolution Act is a multidimensional, multifaceted and multiplex policy that would require a holistic and systematic examination to simultaneously assess its successes and failures.
The ULP’s progressive education revolution, is a policy that has made the access to education more “equitable” and not just “equal”. This was done through a series of tangle and intangible policies: building and remodelling of primary and secondary institutions across the country, remodelling St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College and turning it into a world-class institution, tuition fee scholarships for University of the West Indies students, the government’s backed economically disadvantaged student loan and so on.
Before that, our educational system was in a state of despair. Even Sir James Mitchell and Arnhim Eustace had publicly bemoaned the presence of a crisis in education, under the NDP’s leadership. For example, roughly 39% of all eligible students were admitted to secondary schools, and there were only four primary school teachers that had a university degree. In addition, early childhood education was almost nonexistent; it was inadequate and very few students received scholarships for tertiary level education. The Education Revolution Act has addressed the dysfunctional, problematic, colonial structures and inequitable access to education. For example, there exist universal access to primary and secondary education, new schools have been built, over 400 graduate teachers in primary schools and thousands of students have been awarded scholarships/grants/bursaries, as well as benefited from the government-backed economically disadvantaged student loan programme to pursue higher education overseas.
The latest strategy to the deepening and widening of the Education Revolution Act, is the Support for Education and Training Programme (SET Programme). The programme is based on the premise of equal opportunity, inclusiveness and equipping young professionals with the skillsets to gain meaningful employment, by providing them with work experience in the public sector. This follows the successful completion of their academic studies. It is also part of the ULP government’s philosophy and trademark “people-centred” approach to good governance. Under the programme, university graduates earn on average a monthly salary of EC $2,200, and Community College students earned roughly EC $1000 per month.
Above all, the Education Revolution Act has touched and transformed the livelihood of so many Vincentians and make it easier for the poor, the most vulnerable and the less fortunate to access a proper education. However, the denigrators of the Education Revolution Act have a proclivity to examine the Act through a mono-causal and monocular lens, which fails to give a full and accurate picture of this progressive policy. A key element, for instance, critics of the Act profusely omit from their flimsy assessment is “people”.
The Act can’t encourage students to be disciplined and take their academic opportunities seriously. For example, I am a beneficiary of the Education Revolution Act like so many others that got the Economically Disadvantaged Student Loan, which was a catalyst for my academic achievements. To borrow a lexicon from our PM: you do your part and I do my part for you. Thus, I did not waste my time at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. In fact, I graduated with first class honours, which the PM constantly stresses that we must graduate with either upper second class or first class honours and make St Vincent and the Grenadines proud.
Former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley wrote about the importance of “discipline” and “personal responsibility,” as potent elements for nation building. Notwithstanding the policy shortfalls, the Education Revolution Act has unequivocally touched every corner of St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is an obvious and inescapable fact. Even Ray Charles would’ve seen this simple truth.
By Emanuel Quashie