Former Education Minister Arsene James has said that the education policies implemented by the current government do not cater for the underprivileged and less fortunate.
James said that during his tenure as minister, he implemented a few programmes that were specifically tailored at addressing the educational needs of the poorer class.
But according to the Micoud South MP, since the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) assumed office in 2011, they quickly moved to cut or change some of these same programmes.
James touched on a number of keys issues, which include the laptop programme for third form students, the $500 subsidy provided to form one students and the Partial Zoning Programme.
The former teacher said that he has nothing against the programme, but believes that it was rushed specifically for political mileage based on a number of factors.
James recalled that the first batch of laptops was procured from Trinidad and Tobago at a high cost. But the government didn’t stick with them, but went to Venezuela and most recently Taiwan.
He said there is no consistency with how the government is going about purchasing these laptops. He suggested that they may be having some cash problems at it relate to this programme.
James further stated that while all the form three students have laptops, their parents are still burdened with buying all their books at every level, which cost some way between $1,000 and $2,000 annually.
“That is what happens when the programme was rushed. When you look at students who live in rural areas, when they get home they cannot use their laptops because there is no Wi-Fi or broadband system in place to accommodate these students. I know it because I live in a rural area,” he explained.
Shifting his attention to the $500 subsidy for form one students, James said while it helps, it would have been better to maintain the programme where underprivileged students receive free books or continue to rent books at $175 per year, pointing out that $500 is not enough to cover much.
The Micoud South MP believes that the Partial Zoning Programme, which was aimed at reducing the transportation subsidy, was also rushed, and students who are receiving the $500 subsidy are now denied transportation.
“So when you look at it at face value, it is good. But when you delve into the various intricacies involving these social programmes, you would find a number of students are disadvantaged, even more as they were at the beginning. These are three areas the labour party said they scored,” he added.