KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The social cost of not having a secondary school on Canouan outweighs any financial expenditure of building and running one there, says area representative Terrance Ollivierre.
And Ollivierre, an opposition Member of Parliament, is not convinced even after Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves last Friday presented a case against a secondary school on the island.
Both politicians spoke to the issue in Canouan during a ceremony to officially open an administrative complex there.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, noted that based on the island’s primary school population, a secondary school on Canouan would have about 100 students after five years.
But Ollivierre is adamant that the school be built and outlined his case on radio on Monday.
Parents, he said, are requesting that their students complete at least Forms 1 to 3 on the island, giving their adolescent children time to mature so that they can better cope with living away from home.
“It is hard for 10 and 11 and 12-year-olds to leave their home at that time, having to settle with somebody else on the mainland — people who they are not accustomed to,” said Ollivierre, a former teacher.
He, however, acknowledged that the cost of building and running a school on Canouan is a factor.
“But we also have to take into consideration, year after year, there’re a number of people who are dropping out of secondary school because of various problems,” he pointed out.
He rebutted the Prime Minister’s point about Canouan students who qualify for and would want to attend one of the nation’s tops schools, all of which are located on St. Vincent.
“They are dropping out of these schools anyway because of the situation in which some of them may find themselves.
“… having to face all these problems, in terms of cost and accommodation, social issues and all these kinds of things, they are dropping out of school and the problem is not being addressed. And we are merely saying that it is time that a secondary school be placed on the island,” Ollivierre maintained.
“We constantly use the phrase that no child will be left behind. But what happen to the children of Canouan? When two have to drop out this term and three next term and look at all the others who have dropped out before, … are we not being left behind?” he further said.
Ollivierre said that the scale of development on the island and the number of youth there “who up and down the road without anything to do” further strengthens his case.
He is proposing that a secondary school on the island include a skills training dimension “so our young people would be able to gain a skill and be certified according to [regional and international standards] so that they would be able to compete with all the other people who come from all over the world for the jobs that are here.”
Some mothers from Canouan rent houses and live with their children studying in St. Vincent and this has resulted in the breakup of several homes, Ollivierre said.
“Give the students a fighting chance. … because they re dropping out. Whether they are 12, 13, 14-year-olds, they are dropping out of school and they are home with nothing to do,” he pleaded.