ARE Governments of Saint Lucia deliberately stalling the transitioning of Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) into a University College? Or filibustering on that subject due to unwillingness to work with The University of the West Indies (The UWI) to affect the changeover?
This question comes in the wake of certain revelations made by Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of The UWI, at a press conference yesterday at the Royalton Hotel, Cap Estate, where he said that The UWI had been pressing the Government of Saint Lucia for 20 years to transition the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College into a University College, but without success — and told the reporters how disappointed he is.
“We have been trying to persuade the government in Saint Lucia for 20 years to let us develop the SALCC into a university college where we can build our capacity for young Saint Lucians,” Beckles said.
The evolution of College into a higher institution of learning (a University College) is not new, as it has been on the cards of the Government of Saint Lucia for several years. In fact, the current UWP administration has been quite vocal on that subject, especially during the Stephenson era, following the death of Sir John Compton, who also harboured the idea.
Never, however, has the Government of Saint Lucia publicly revealed that The UWI) was and is still very much interested in assisting in improving the SALCC’s status.
Beckles said that The UWI had in fact reached out to all OECS countries to develop their community colleges into university colleges — and The UWI has a model for that transition.
So then, why is the Government reluctant or outright unwilling to work with The UWI on this issue?
Answers were not forthcoming yesterday before press time, as efforts to get The Education Minister, Chief Education Officer, Permanent Secretary — or even someone from the SALCC — to speak on the matter proved unsuccessful.
“I have spoken, written, lectured about it. Senator (Charmaine) Gardner invited me here 15 years ago to give a lecture on this very subject, to speak about the transition of Sir Arthur into a university college. It hasn’t happened and we are disappointed,” Sir Hilary said.
But as it turned out Saint Lucia’s refusal or reluctance to work with The UWI opened the way for the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to step in to do exactly what The UWI was asking of the Saint Lucia Government.
“But now we are speaking with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, which has agreed to develop a UWI Campus to drive the process across the OECS — and we are celebrating Prime Minister Brown for putting his foot forward and saying yes we will do this….
“We are now on the cusp of rolling out a fourth landed campus in the OECS headquartered in Antigua and Barbuda,” Sir Hilary said.
He told reporters yesterday that it was difficult for him to know why the Government of Saint Lucia seemed so reluctant to work with The UWI regarding the college
“I have made three visits to sir Arthur Lewis Community College in the last five years to discuss this matter.
“I think there has been a reluctance to grow Sir Arthur Lewis Community College within the context of The UWI and I do not know what the source of that is.
“I think there is a concern that a national institution would somehow be subsumed under a regional institution and we spent so much time trying to explain that that would not happen,” Sir Hilary said.
Beckles said the whole objective was to put The UWI behind SALCC “to push it, to empower it, to give it access to our libraries, online capabilities, to empower it to make it even more aggressive in its own orientation.”
In Jamaica, the community colleges and teachers colleges have all signed up to be colleges within The UWI framework. So, the offer that Saint Lucia seem to have rejected has been accepted by all the teachers colleges in Jamaica and we now have Anguilla, that has also accepted our offer — and a lot of other colleges in the region have accepted,” Beckles said.
“So, we are going to be rolling out in this coming year the institutionalization of these colleges as University Colleges offering UWI programmes at multiple levels.
“We have always seen SALCC as a Five-star College, not only by its results but by the fact that it is Sir Arthur and it is here in Saint Lucia.
“We have not given up. We still hope that we can have conversations where SALCC could be transformed into a University College, to serve this country even better,” Beckles said.
According to the Vice Chancellor, “The UWI will meet with the College’s Board of Trustees and the Principal and will answer all their questions and attend whatever fears they may have of losing control of their college, because that will not happen.”
“We answered all the questions they asked and we explained to them very carefully whatever fears they have of losing control of their college now that it would become part of a bigger UWI network. We made it very clear that it would remain a national institution,” Beckles said.
He added: “It would be branded as a part of The UWI, but would remain a national institution, with its own governance model — but would be a part of a bigger model”
Sir Hilary also applauded The UWI’s recognition as one of the top five percent of the world’s best universities.