In the last edition of A-Musings, I began to blow my own trumpet, and at the risk of overdoing it, I would like to continue playing that same tune.
I am a retired pilot and had all the ratings, including helicopters, even as high as the coveted Airline Transport Pilot Rating, but the one I loved best was the Flight Instructor Rating, which I used to give instruction to several wannabe pilots in St Lucia. When I discovered a dearth of qualified mechanics on Vigie, I solved the problem by sending three aspirants to school in the States to become qualified power-plant and airframe mechanics. I have also put more than a few Saint Lucian students through university.
For three years, I worked as a volunteer teaching literacy to inmates at Bordelais locked up with 17 to 25 convicted criminals in a small room. The Director, who would later become a close friend, explained that he wanted to get the best use out of the inmates so he sent lifers to the classes to become teachers, who could later teach their fellow inmates.
Through my friendship with Director Herman, I came into contact with an organization in Denver that dealt in brand-new medical supplies, CURE. Over the years, I managed, again through the Rotary Club of Gros Islet, to persuade CURE to donate four containers of medical equipment and supplies for almost 4 million dollars to hospitals and health centers around the island.
In 2011, as part of the InTime Project that provided books, computers and televisions to schools, I arranged for 144 primary school teachers to be qualified in First Aid and CPR, essential knowledge and skills when working in rural environments far from the nearest emergency centre or hospital.
As a linguist, I was fascinated by Creole and recorded 150 television shows, Bonjou Sent Lisi, with Germaine, our teacher, and Judy, a fellow student. The shows were aired on the National Television Network (NTN) at no cost to government, which, I believe, marked the first serious attempt to introduce locally produced educational programs to the people of St Lucia.
From before the turn of the century, I have tried to use my experience and knowledge of teaching to good effect by piloting various ideas in St Lucia that I had previous introduced in many places around the globe. With LIME, we provided the Dame Pearlette School with a computer laboratory and books to go with it. The Principal, Ms Leonce, will confirm happily that before the onset of the program her school was lagging behind on Minimum Standards Tests. Once they implemented the program they leapt to the front in academic performance and other schools wanted to join in. All this was long before the InTime Project with Taiwanese help was ever implemented.
In 2009, with the help of the Taiwanese, I initiated the InTime Program to computerize all primary schools and provide on-line materials for learning. The project was to last for seven years, from 2009 to 2016; the Implementation Stage would last for three years until 2012; thereafter the Assessment and Evaluation Stage would take another four years. Unfortunately, the project died in 2011, but we did provide around 1300 computers and televisions to all primary schools.
The InTime textbooks were all produced locally; the spin-off effect being that educational printing created and secured jobs, and that less money flowed out of the country to pay for foreign books. It is estimated that Saint Lucians pay well over 40 million dollars a year to foreign publishers; a local or regional publishing industry could do the job just as well and reap royalties from abroad. I sincerely believe that we have the talent; we just need the opportunity.
Four years or so ago, the inTime team and I initiated the Caribbean’s first and only 24/7 educational TV channel, IETV, that can be viewed at home or in school all day long on LIME 32 and Karib 102, as well as on NTN, so there is a chance that education will be changed forever. IETV has also made all its programming available free of charge for airing by every other television station in a bid to spread learning to all. However, support from the private sector and government is almost non-existent, and the other stations have been reluctant to air the programs.
After over 20 years of service to the community, the overriding emotion is
one of frustration. I chose to come here, chose to become a Saint Lucian national,
and chose to spend my time, money, knowledge and energy on doing what I have done.
Now, when my time here is coming to en end, even in my bleakest moments, I have no regrets.