The deplorable conditions at the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School which caused the National Youth Council, last week, to intercede on behalf of the students, has taken us back to an age-old problem that schools on the island have been battling, particularly the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School. And that problem is vandalism.
Smashed windows, graffiti on the school’s walls, broken desks and chairs, cut fences, broken toilets, doorways without doors and general dishevelment of the grounds and buildings making up the school, have all been associated with the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School over the years.
The deplorable condition at the school today is nothing new. We are tempted to describe the problem as perennial. For instance, in 2016, we published a very sad story of the deplorable state the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School was in and the vandalism that occurred there.
And to be fair, each parliamentary representative for Soufriere has done his/her part in preparing the school for the start of a new academic year. The Ministry of Education has also taken its share of criticisms over the years regarding conditions at the school and schools in general on the island.
The dreadful condition of some of the island’s school plant year after year has always been a vexing issue for all, particularly school authorities, necessitating the usual call on the Education Ministry and parliamentary representatives not to drop the ball when it comes to the education of our children in all regions of our country.
The sad conditions at schools generally and at the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School specifically, will continue to occur if we look only at the Ministry of Education and the parliamentary representative/s of the day to fix. We need to look further and bring into the picture some students’ proclivity for vandalism and lack of community pride in educational facilities.
As have been asserted, the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School over the years, has been heavily vandalised both by students and others. Therefore, we are forced to ask: is the school’s deplorable condition today the result of acts of vandalism or sheer disregard by education authorities, or a mixture of both?
Should it be determined that vandalism is due or partly due to the current state of the school, then we call on the authorities to subject students engaged in this act to disciplinary measures. Let them feel the consequences of a possible restitution, suspension, expulsion, and exclusion from school activities.
In researching the causes of school vandalism, we learned that juridical, economic, drug and alcohol, as well as learner-related problems, are considered important causes which can be prevented by connecting with the local police department, setting up video surveillance monitoring, installing an Access Control System, having students paint a mural, installing an alarm system and connecting with the community.
We believe that if a community has pride in its school, not only will vandalism stop, but deplorable conditions as have been exposed regarding the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School will no longer be a headache of the school.
Vandalism is costly, a cost that the Government of Saint Lucia, which is now trying to make food affordable to its inhabitants, cannot shoulder at this time. Such a cost could be avoided if the community is educated about the consequences of vandalism and has pride in its school.
One need not to be an expert in that field to determine that hometown pride is a critical factor in the development and improvement of any community. Residents with community pride are more likely to speak positively about their town and schools to others, and volunteer with organizations and activities that support the common good.
Not until residents of Soufriere/Fond St Jacques develop a high level of pride for their community and the institutions within, will they see an end to the situation at the school.
Each community on the island has a role to play in the schools located within its boundaries. How the communities play their roles will determine positive or negative outcomes in schools on the island.