PRESS RELEASE – The evidence is that Hunter J. Francois was revered. His contribution and exploits in Music,Law, Elocution and Education are legendary. In this reflection on his life, we pay specific attention to the unmatched and unheralded contribution that he made to the development of education in Saint Lucia.
Recently, there are many persons who have opined that Hunter J. Francois was a man who was ahead of his time. The bow of a boat and the blade of an axe are leading edges that make it possible for the boat and axe to follow. Similarly, Hunter J. Francois was a leading edge.
Hunter J. Francois was a visionary – unfortunately, a visionary’s bane is that he is neither appreciated nor understood by his peers. Far too often we fail to accept George Berkley’s philosophical advice that we ought not to reject an idea only because we are hearing of it for the first time.
An examination of the major educational developments in Saint Lucia within the last forty years will reveal that they all carry the genetic code of the venerable Hunter J. Francois. One such development was the Morne Education Complex which resulted from Hunter’s relentless effort to establish an educational institution on Morne Fortune. Given the need, at the time the complex was established, to provide additional housing for a burgeoning capital city, it was a testament to Hunter’s resilience and resourcefulness that eventually the Premier of the day, John Compton, supported the establishment of the Morne Education Complex. The Complex included the A’ Level College, The Morne Technical College and the Saint Lucia Teachers’ College.
These were the institutions which served as the nucleus for the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College when it was established in 1985. The College’s library is named after Hunter J. Francois in honour of the pivotal role he played in establishing Morne Fortune as the premiere location for tertiary education in Saint Lucia.
Hunter J. Francois’ legacy went beyond changing the architecture at Morne Fortune – he also sought to reform Saint Lucia’s religious archetype. For instance, he utilized his immeasurable talent so that the Teaching Service Commission Bill would be safely channelled through the
Parliament. Among other things, the resulting Act enabled all teachers, including those who worked in government assisted schools to become entitled to a government pension. Unfortunately, some thought the Bill was a veiled effort to denude the Church’s (Roman Catholic) control over education, particularly at the St. Mary’s College and St. Joseph’s Convent.
Making reference to Hunter’s position on this matter, a former educator commented, “Hunter in almost suicidal fashion confronted the Church, powerful as it was at the time, in an effort to place control•of schools, the appointment of teachers and principals, and the general management and welfare of personnel in the education sector away from a denominational body and into the hands of an independent Commission.” That was Hunter’s nature — he supported the principled position even when that meant personal sacrifice and disadvantage.
The much vaunted Universal Secondary Education (USE) became a reality in Saint Lucia in 2006/7. To the uninitiated there is no relationship between Hunter J. Francois and that milestone. Thankfully, those who are intimately aware of Hunter’s contribution to education inSaint Lucia will readily make the link between the establishment of the Junior Secondary Schools and the development of our Secondary schools.
It was through the work of a team headed by Hunter J. Francois and which included Sir Ira Simmons, Sir Leton Thomas and Mr. George Theophilus, that the plan to provide Junior Secondary education, was envisioned. These Junior Secondary schools served as the core of our efforts to attain USE.
Hunter’s interest in educational matters in Saint Lucia caused him to be as interested in music as he was in Technical Vocational Education. His passion to expand training for teachers locally was equalled by his penchant to train teachers overseas.
His willingness to listen to learned technocrats never surpassed his desire to hear what parents and teachers had to say. In dialogue, deeds and disposition, Hunter embodied the adage that the accomplished person is more than an amalgam of knowledge, skills and attitudes. We hold, that the measure of his contribution to the education of our nation is signaled by the unobtrusive and positive ways that his life influenced ours. We offer collective thanks for that influence.