Member of Parliament for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre has highlighted the peculiar challenges that students from Mayreau face in accessing secondary education.
There is no secondary school on the tiny Grenadine island and students there generally go to school in Union Island, or elsewhere in the multi-island state.
During the Budget Debate earlier this month, Ollivierre addressed the issue of equity in the education system.
“When we look at the students from Mayreau, they have to pay a boat fee. From paying a boat fee, they also, when they reach Union Island, have to pay a transportation fee plus other fees for lunch and other factors which may occur because they are not getting home until after four in the evening when the boat leaves Union Island.”
Ollivierre, an opposition lawmaker, said that in one year, 12 students from his district dropped out of secondary school;
“When I questioned them, some said, ‘Mr. Ollivierre, my parents cannot afford to pay the boat fee,” the lawmaker said, as he reiterated that, in addition to the boat fee, the students have to pay for ground transportation.
“When you compare it to the mainland, here you have children who are struggling; their parents live on an island where you only have seasonal work during the tourist season. And they find it hard.
“Some may argue and say yes, they get help from certain organisations –international organisations. There are yacht companies that visit Mayreau, they saw the plight of the young people, and they try to help by giving fees which go directly to the school.”
Ollivierre said these funds are then used to pay the operator of the boat.
“But my point is, sometimes it is not enough, we need the government to get involved in order to help pay either the boat fee or the van fee to make it much easier for the students to access secondary education.”
Ollivierre, who is the opposition spokesperson on education, called for a re-engineering of the education system to cater to the needs of all students
“… we can create a more equitable system, one in which all schools will be considered to be prestige or elite. Because in this country, it sometimes depends on where this school is located, you do not attract and get some of the best minds even though they come from those locations.
“And we must change our methods of access to secondary schools by making sure that all schools, as much as possible, in every locality be considered to be elite or prestige,” Ollivierre said.