Category Archives: All in a Day’s Work

A student loan default crisis in SVG?

student loan

The National Student Loan Programme has published a list of names and addresses of persons who have apparently defaulted on student loans over the years. In a press release carried in the Searchlight on Friday July 28, 2017, a number of persons were asked to contact the Ministry of Education by August 31, 2017.  While the release did not specifically identify these persons as defaulters, it is generally assumed that they are being summoned to make good on their commitments to the programme.

There were 112 persons named on the published list. It comprised 76 males and 36 females. The listed addresses indicated a spread throughout the entire country. The graphic below shows the distribution according to constituencies. One person’s address was listed as Canada.

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Distribution of Student Loan Defaulters According to Constituency

The publication of this list has generated quite a lot of discussion on social media. Some person  are totally against the move to, as they put it,  “name and shame” our young people. Then, there are those who think that it was neecessary to bring attention to what is emerging as an important isssue.

It would be interesting to find out why so many persons have chosen to default on loans granted to them to pursue studies. Is it a question of inability to pay back? Or, is it a question of unwillingness to pay. Whatever the situation, it must be negatively impacting on the sustainability of the National Student Loan Programme.

Most, if not all,  of the persons named on the list are gainfully employed right here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Others have apparently migrated in search of better opportunities. Whatever the case, they clearly do not consider repayment of their student loan to be high on their list of priorities. It does not matter to them  that refusal to pay puts the progammme in jeopardy and stymies the chances of other young people seeking to finance their college and university education.

As a grateful beneficiary of similar student loans in the past, both as a student and as the parent of a student, I am in full support of any measure taken by the authorities to get persons to honour their debts in this regard,

To those who have criticized the publication of the list, I say, stop complaining! If there is anyone whom you know on the list, call them up and urge them to meet their commitments. It is the patriotic thing to do.

Finally, if any of the defaulters are reading this, do the right thing and pay up!

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Are teachers abusing school phones?

Several schools across the state have been affacted by the programme of disconnection for unpaid bills recently carried out by LIME. We have since learnt that the unpaid bills had nothing to do with the government’s lack of resources or inability to pay. Instead, it is a question of poor mangement and abuse.

The abuse of the phone service in government departments and agencies including school is rampant! That is the conventional view. In the case of schools we must accept the fact that phone bills are high due partly or wholly to abuse by teachers. Should we sit back and accept this view?

Pause for a moment and consider the following points:

  1. Since about 2005 every single teacher is in possession of one or two or even three mobile phones.
  2. The preferred mobile phone or similar device for your average teacher is a smartphone (BlackBerry, iPhone etc).
  3. The preferred modes of communication is texting or “bbming”, or chatting on MSN and Yahoo Messenger.  Note: The phone is hardly ever used for “talking”.
  4. It is easier and safer to gossip with a colleague, friends and family using a mobile handset instead of using the school phone which is invariably an old time fixed line handset situated in a public place.
  5. Most, if not all fixed lines in schools are on a the “flat fee” plan and are generally barred from making calls to mobile phones and overseas numbers.

In this context, it is difficult to figure out why and how a teacher would abuse a school phone. The old land line is simply no longer the preferred means of communicating. This is the 21st century; it is the age of FB and Twitter! Why would any teacher go into the office or staff room and spend hours on the school phone?

Call me daft! But, it just does not make any sense to me!

Toward Paperless Schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

This piece is not about the digitalization of school processes and the consequent reduction in the use of paper; it is not about the integration of ICT into the curriculum with the use of digital media; it is not even about the widespread use of laptops, net-books or i-pads that threatens to make obsolete the paper bound text; it is not even about the scarcity of copy paper and the continued reliance on the chalkboard for writing up notes, tests, notices etc. No my dear colleagues, my reflections today refer to a matter of much greater import. My article is about the growing absence of toilet paper in schools across St. Vincent and the Grenadines!

This reality hit me in the face the other day when I noticed that an unusually high number of students, particularly females, kept coming to my office in search of “a piece ah toylit papah please sah”. I had no problem. I have been going “paper-less” in that regard for some time now. So, I had no difficulty in liberally sharing my supply with those who sought the item. The last time I checked, I was completely out.

Then, at an emergency staff meeting a few days ago, the scarcity of toilet paper in the school was accorded priority status on the agenda!  The principal expressed concerned about the rapidity with which this precious item seemed to be disappearing. Bails of toilet paper are depleted in a matter of days. Information gleaned from colleagues around the country suggests that this may well be a nation wide  trend.

As one who has an interest in educational research, I have an impulse to conduct some investigation in to the issue. Why is toilet paper so scarce in our schools? Has the Ministry of Education been cutting back on the supply? Does it have anything to do with the global economic crisis? Are our schools generating so much filth that an inordinate amount of toilet paper is necessary? Or is it that teachers are taking home the school’s supply of toilet paper?

Going paperless is a notion  normally associated with the digital age. Naturally, St. Vincent and the Grenadines will not be left behind. Apart from the distribution of net-books to teachers and students, we appear to be cutting back significantly on the use of toilet paper. Perhaps we have found a way to digitize all sanitary activities!

As one writer states: “paperless doesn’t mean no paper. It means simply that technology is giving us new options to reduce or eliminate much of the paper we use today and to enjoy the cost savings that result. Moreover, it gives us the satisfaction of introducing ourselves and our students to the increased portability and accessibility of digitized ideas and to a greener way of doing business”.

Trust the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to embrace the concept of the “paperless school”.  But, must we begin with the elimination of toilet paper?

Keep your “man prablems” out of the classroom!

Teaching for me still remains quite a noble profession.  After nearly 30 years in the service of our youth, I still have the drive,  the passion, the energy and the motivation to make a positive  difference in the lives of my students.  But, as the days go by, this is becoming quite a daunting task.

Among the biggest challenges facing me and several young, bright, talented and committed teachers is the despicable decline in discipline and decorum among the student population we pledge to serve.  Several youngsters are downwright rude and disrecpectful.  They have absolutely no regard for anyone, human or divine. 

Just yesterday  a young female colleague attempted to admonish an otherwise unruly class.  The unfortunate young lady probably made a remark that some elements in the class found to be “offensive”.  In response to the pleading of the teacher for some quietude and order, a girl in the class blurted out, “She ah behave like she ha man prablems”.

This was an unapologetic remark directed to my young colleague; delivered  without fear or trepidation.  Clearly, who the hell is Miss to tell them anything?  Why should Miss bring her “man prablems” to the class?  What Miss should have done was to mind her own business.  Miss’s presence, and her attempt to establish order was clearly an affront to whatever the students had planned for that period!  And, that young lady, that first former, that beneficiary of the “education revolution” had to let Miss know it!

I still love teaching. I just have to remember to keep my “man prablems” out of the classroom!

Why bother to plan sometimes?

Wednesday January 19, 2011: Why bother to plan sometimes?

I turned up this morning at period two to teach a social studies class in Form 3 Room 12.  I met the classroom door locked and the windows closed. There was not a single student present.  I was subsequently informed that the entire class was suspended for the day.  I did not know that!

Apparently, the students in the class did not comply with the directions of their English teacher, Miss Quashie.  They had an assignment to submit for her but failed to do so.  I am advised that the matter was brought to the attention of the principal, Mrs James.  As punishment for this infraction, the principal decided to suspend the entire class for one day!

Needless to say, I was livid.  I had spent the two previous days preparing a slideshow to be presented during that double period, the only one for the week.  In fact, it was the first slideshow to be presented to that class.  I was really looking forward to it.  But, I was thoroughly disappointed when I turned up and the students were all absent.

A few other teachers indicated to me subsequently that they were aware of the suspension.  It turned out that a notice to that effect was posted on the notice board in the staff-room.  The problem with that is this: The office of the deputy principal is on the lower floor.  There is where I spend my time when I am not engaged in instruction. So, that notice never came to my attention.  I think that I would have to visit the staff-room more often!

Another thought occured to me.  The English teacher in question, Miss Quashie, is one whom I regard as a “delinquent teacher”.  She is regularly late and regularly absent.  I therefore thought it unfair that these students had to be suspended on behalf of a delinquent teacher. Miss Quashie too, deserves some form of recrimination for her oft times unprofessional and delinquent conduct.

It may never happen! For such is the world in which we live, the powerless and disenfranchised must suffer!

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