New college interim board to be appointed on Monday after en masse resignation, says St Lucia education minister

By Melanius Alphonse, Caribbean News Now associate editor

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Education Minister Dr. Gale Rigobert

(CARIBBEAN NEWS NOW) — Following last week’s resignation of the entire board of directors of Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC), Saint Lucia’s minister for education, innovation, gender relations and sustainable development, Gale Rigobert, said that on Monday the Cabinet will name an interim board to oversee the restructuring and transformation of the college.

On Monday, August 6, the Cabinet met with the SALCC board regarding an announced 100 percent increase in tuition fees for the 2018/2019 academic year.

The following day, Rigobert confirmed the resignation of the entire SALCC board, which apparently caught the minister by surprise after saying following the meeting, “I think that we all left the meeting with the mindset that we were heading in the right direction.”

Rigobert insisted, however, that the issues at SALCC 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.”

Nicole McDonald, senior communications officer, responding to the board’s resignation said: “We just want to move forward. Our main priority is to ensure that the community college is meeting the needs of the people and the students. That is our main concern, no matter what board is in place.”

SALCC falls under Rigobert’s portfolio as education minister, which makes it unlikely that she did not know what the board of SALCC (appointed by the current United Workers Party (UWP) government) is pursuing, pursuant to the Community College Act, without her expressed approval.

Philip J Pierre, leader of the opposition said: “While the government may have created the impression the tuition increase took them by surprise that is not true.

“I know, and I am certainly sure, that the Sir Arthur Lewis board would never go public with such a declaration if they did not consult with the minister of education.”

An SALCC statement about fee increases dated August 7 said: “Following a meeting with the Cabinet of ministers and the management of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College on Monday, 6th August 2018, an agreement was reached to suspend the increase in fees for the academic year starting August 2018. The government of Saint Lucia has agreed to immediately inject over three million dollars to help alleviate the financial challenges of the College. A review of the fee structure will be one of the primary undertakings of the Interim Board to be named on Monday next week by the minister for education.”

The vice principal of SALCC, Dr Merle St Clair Auguste, stated, “The College remains committed to providing quality education to the citizens of Saint Lucia and will continue its efforts to ensure that programmes, facilities and student experiences are truly valuable. The College stands ready to work with the Interim Board and the Government of Saint Lucia to provide affordable education and fulfill its mandate. The SALCC continues with plans to welcome its new and returning students during the week of 20th August 2018.”

According to local sources, the ministry of education has been aware of the pending 100 percent increase in tuition fees and other related matters for well over a year, but chose in large part to ignore the SALCC board.

However, according to Rigobert, “My politics is a people-centered politics. I’m concern about households and how they are affected by decisions, and we’ve had a very delicate dance over the last couple years.”

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