In a situation replete with hypocrisy and irony, the members of the ill-defined cabinet of ministers of Saint Lucia now want clarity in terms of how Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) money is used and to ensure it is being managed in a way that redounds to the benefit of the students, while at the same time refusing to explain how the citizenship by investment programme money has been used.
Last week, after a proposed increase in tuition fees was vetoed by the government, the entire SALCC board resigned en masse.
The hitherto only known interaction between government and SALCC was minister in the ministry of finance Ubaldus Raymond’s purported EC$700 voyeurism with a student of SALCC, which went viral on social media last year.
In the midst of this à la carte accountability and transparency, on Monday, August 6, the ill-defined cabinet met with the management of SALCC to discuss the issues and, according to Gale Rigobert, minister for education, innovation, gender relations and sustainable development: “SALCC issues are not limited to the issue of ‘money’ and that there is a plethora of other issues that must be addressed immediately if the college is to fulfil its mandate satisfactorily and meet the demands of a dynamic global political economy.”
The following day, the minister confirmed receipt of resignation letters from the entire board of SALCC, responding:
“I wish to thank all of you for your tremendous support and unwavering commitment to the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) and the advancement of the people of Saint Lucia.
“I pray that God will give you strength and wisdom as you continue to make a worthwhile contribution to the development of our beautiful country, in your respective fields.”
In a subsequent release, the minister pleasured herself on social media: “The government of Saint Lucia has agreed to inject over three million dollars into the SALCC immediately to help alleviate financial challenges of SALCC.
“Therefore the college will suspend increase in fees this academic year 2018/2019. A review of the fee structure will be one of the primary undertakings of the interim Board to be named on Monday [August 13] next week.”
Coincidence perhaps, SALCC new and returning students are scheduled to commence the week of August 20 yet, again, the government of Saint Lucia is unable to satisfy the budgeted allocation of EC$15 million towards student fees and support activities of the SALCC, except to carry out interim measures.
According to Rigobert, “Government’s commitment is to ensuring that SALCC distinguishes itself as the premier learning tertiary institution in Saint Lucia.”
However, a rebound that many had hoped for in education hasn’t happened.
The opposite is true. A watered down education policy to vocational services, apprenticeship programs and the expected privatization of SALCC is apparently success draped in yellow.
Essentially, the big changes that have happened are apparently the impetus for garbage collection treaties; advocating support that the administration ought to remain in power and to satisfy retirement guidelines in this parliamentary term.
Meanwhile, SALCC issues were seemingly stonewalled by a breakdown in communication for a loan guarantee, and an increase in tuition fees, amid central government’s reduced subvention, although guided by ‘inconvenient facts’ that “the economy is doing extremely well”.
There is also the hurdle of the Apex education management and training consultancy services model with tentacles in cabinet standing by to come to the rescue.
The minister for education ought to have known, even in a miniscule way, the cycle of musical chairs and the influence of power politics and private interests is hardly a credible scenario to enhance educational concepts and improve student performance.
However, such a mindset coincides with the regressive and unavoidably norms of an ill-defined cabinet of ministers working towards vocational services, apprenticeship programs and ‘touristic development’.
The depth of the SALCC issues contrasts even more with the indifference and nonchalant way the minister for education evades the most basic of information and the apparent willful lack of knowledge as to the state of play.
In the real world, Rigobert would be required to tender her resignation, short of the failure to explain:
• Was it a unilateral decision by the board of governors to increase tuition and related fees?
• Is the minister and cabinet unaware of the financial health of SALCC?
• Why the conflicting future direction of SALCC and the government of Saint Lucia?
• Is there an agenda towards vocational services, apprenticeship programs and private ownership?
• Was the minister for education knowledgeable of the impending increases?
• What was the input from the ministry of education?
And so, the claim not to know what SALCC money is used for by the ill-defined Cabinet dovetails into the citizenship programme questions that also need answers.
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and News Now Global analysis. He can be reached at [email protected]