Letters & Opinion

Back to School: In Khaki Pants or Robes?

Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E
By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

SCHOOLS in St. Lucia re-opened on Monday, 5th September for the academic year 2022 to 2023. And Parents, teachers and students all received a hearty welcome. Parents in particular were very happy that their children were able to start a new school year.

I started Primary School in 1956. Although at that time we did not have the facilities and technologies now available; as the Mighty Sparrow puts it: “School days were happy, happy days!

Prior to the re-opening of school children joked at each other saying: “Back to school in Khaki Pants”. In those days boys wore a white shirt and Khaki pants to school. Even the St. Mary’s College boys wore a white shirt and Khaki pants. I remember the boys running up and down the St. Mary’s College building which was situated at the location where the Castries Parish Centre is now located.

Even after the school was re-located to Vigie, the boys still wore their white shirts and khaki pants.

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When I made my First Holy Communion, I wore a white shirt and khaki pants during the week of retreat.

I say all of that to emphasize that we now live in a new era. All Primary and Secondary schools have designed their school uniforms and students are very proud to wear them. Robes are even worn at graduations beginning with Pre-schools or Early Learning Centres, as we call them now.

But more interesting is the fact that students are exposed to more learning devices and strategies which could make learning more exciting and rewarding.

The government of St. Lucia has made computer Lap tops available to a large majority of students. In fact, all Form I students of Secondary Schools will receive, if they have not all received them yet, a laptop. The intention of government is to make lap tops available to every school child in St. Lucia. Fantastic, to say the least!

The St. Lucia government will make Smart TVs available to schools in St. Lucia.

But how can smart TVs be utilized in school or made an integral part of the school curriculum? Smart TVs are perfect for teaching groups of children or students making the interaction between students and between teachers and students. Indeed, it greatly enhances and facilitates the learning process. Teachers can give more group activities using this device and students can group together to participate.

TV can help a child’s intellect. TV can be a teacher for children. TV can show children things they wouldn’t see otherwise. For example current world events happening at any given time.

TV can provide good role models for children.

Television can teach students important values and life lessons. Educational programming can develop young children and students’ socialization and learning skills. News, current events and historical programming can make students more aware of cultures and people.

Now I have just scratched the surface in telling you some of the things a television can do for students. There’s a lot more that television can do for children and students.

Laptops are embraced because of the technological tools they offer, combined with their portability, by portability I mean that children and students can move about comfortably with the device.  Not only are they becoming more common for home use, but many schools are starting to incorporate them into their classrooms as well. Several advantages exist for students using laptops including more efficient and detailed note taking, faster writing and editing, and convenient group work and study. Laptops offer these advantages to students no matter what their grade or age.

In fact, I am fascinated by the things very young children and students can do with laptops at home and at school.

In the Government of St. Lucia, there are Principals and teachers who understand teaching and learning and the importance of those devices which I have discussed in this article. So it was not difficult at all for the government to flood the schools with laptops and Smart Televisions.

But even what is more consoling, is the fact that government has found very creative ways of helping parents with their children’s education. They have paid facilities fees for every student registered in a school in St. Lucia. That surely was a great help for parents.

As a former school principal, I know how hard it could be for parents to pay facilities fees for their children after purchasing schoolbooks for the new school year. Many are unable to meet the full amount, and others can’t pay at all. But their children are always accepted in school whether they have paid or not.

But hear this, government gave each parent $500.00 to help with books, snacks and lunches for their children. What is more imaginative than this? For sure, this is a people’s government. And they said it clearly. We are Putting People First! We see the actions in Sports, in culture, in education, and, in recent times, there has been much talk in the Health Ministry about Universal Health Care (UHC). Health Care for all the people.

We see government putting people first in Agriculture. Quite importantly, women in Agriculture. In subsequent articles I will bring the issues to you in Agriculture, in Sports and several other areas where the emphasis is on Putting People First.

My dear reader, it is very important to understand that it is not putting some people first. It’s putting all the people first! It does not matter which political party their parents support. That is not important to government. We all are  St. Lucians with one destiny, “to get to the land of promise,, where milk and honey flow.”

After just one year and two months in office the government has done a tremendous amount of work for its people.

I am looking forward with anxiety, to the rest of the term in office; and when that time comes, the people themselves who have been so well served, will retain their source of inspiration and help.

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