A Cry for Help

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

I’ve been do­ing th­ese a-mus­ings for about 18 months, and quite a few peo­ple have been kind enough to tell me that they en­joy read­ing them. Then there are even kin­der peo­ple who tell me how much they ap­pre­ci­ate what we have been try­ing to do for ed­u­ca­tion in Saint Lu­cia for the past decades. Well, now it’s crunch time. We can­not con­tinue go­ing it alone with­out help. We need as­sis­tance.

In­Time Ed­u­ca­tion Tele­vi­sion (IETV) is a not-for-profit chan­nel that pro­vides ed­u­ca­tional con­tent to the homes and schools of Saint Lu­cia. It is the Caribbean’s first and only TV sta­tion ded­i­cated to ed­u­ca­tion 24/7, but few in Saint Lu­cia seem to care. As an ac­quain­tance, an im­porter of food­stuffs, once told me: "It’s eas­ier to sell chicken backs than ed­u­ca­tion". Peo­ple need to eat; they don’t need to learn. His mil­lions have grown while mine have dwin­dled.

C&W, a.k.a. LIME, has al­ways been an ar­dent sup­porter of ed­u­ca­tion and a great com­pany to work with, which is amaz­ing re­ally con­sid­er­ing the pretty strong opin­ions I voiced about its pric­ing pol­icy be­fore Dig­i­cel ar­rived on the scene. In to­day’s “if you’re not for us, you must be against us” so­ci­ety, C&W’s at­ti­tude has been a re­fresh­ing rar­ity. Years ago, the In­Time team and C&W col­lab­o­rated in pi­lot­ing the use of com­put­ers in a limited num­ber of pri­mary schools. The project was so suc­cess­ful that we at In­Time de­cided to seek a third part­ner, in ad­di­tion to the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, to help make the pro­gram a re­al­ity in all in­fant and pri­mary schools.

We ap­proached The Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of China (Tai­wan) who eval­u­ated the project and agreed to pro­vide com­puter hard­ware. In­time would pro­vide books, in­ter­ac­tive on­line con­tent, and train­ing for over 900 teach­ers; LIME would pro­vide is­land-wide con­nec­tiv­ity to all 86 schools. In­time and Tai­wan shared the project costs that ran into the mil­lions. This was with­out a doubt the big­gest, costli­est, pri­vate, benev­o­lent in­vest­ment in ed­u­ca­tion ever made – or ever likely to be made – in Saint Lu­cia. Yet even to­day, the In­Time Project re­ceives no gov­ern­ment grants or sub­si­dies; it is en­tirely de­pen­dent on sup­port from view­ers, busi­nesses and pri­vate sources for its sur­vival. We need help.

The project also pro­vided ev­ery school with a 40-inch flat-screen TV. Be­liev­ing that hard­ware is use­less with­out con­tent, In­Time started a tele­vi­sion chan­nel to bring ed­u­ca­tional con­tent not only to ev­ery school but also into ev­ery home. Ini­tially, the pro­grams were the same as were used in schools to al­low chil­dren to share and en­joy at home what they had learned at school. Sub­se­quently, the pro­gram base was ex­panded to ap­peal to all age groups.

If we ask any­one in power, in gov­ern­ment, in the pri­vate sec­tor about the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion we get the same pos­i­tive an­swer. If we ask what they think of our ef­forts they are full of praise. If we ask for as­sis­tance or an ad­ver­tis­ing dollar, their re­sponse will be “What’s in it for us?” Are we the only ones who un­der­stand, and are will­ing to pay for, the fu­ture benefits of a bet­ter-ed­u­cated so­ci­ety?

One of IETV’s main ob­jec­tives is to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about Saint Lu­cia. To this end we have pro­duced thou­sands of videos that deal with his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural, eco­log­i­cal, so­cial, and geo­graphic as­pects of com­mu­ni­ties that will pro­voke an in­ter­est among the pop­u­la­tion in learn­ing more about their coun­try; schools will use the pro­grams for in­struc­tion. Once on­line, each pro­gram will be part of a se­ries of elec­tronic text­books avail­able to all at no cost. Cost should never be a bar­rier to bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion.

The con­tent of our pro­grams is an at­trac­tive ad­di­tion to any com­pany’s con­tri­bu­tion to ed­u­ca­tion, en­ter­tain­ment, na­tional aware­ness and pride among school­child­ren and adults. Many pro­grams are pro­duced in two ver­sions, English and Cre­ole to al­low us to reach out to all sec­tions of the com­mu­nity. Suc­cess breeds suc­cess. We need your sup­port. Our fresh 4-hour loop is shown 6 times each day on all ca­ble net­works; we also pro­vide NTN with daily ed­u­ca­tional con­tent. Each loop con­tains one hour of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tional con­tent, Kinder­garten through Pri­mary 6. An­other hour presents up-to-date, global news from “Democ­racy Now”. The 3rd and 4th hours vary in con­tent: The En­vi­ron­ment Hour, Ev­ery­thing St Lu­cia, Cre­ole Lan­guage Pro­grams, His­tory, Science, Gen­eral Knowl­edge, the rivers of St Lu­cia (Lazy Rivers & Up­stream), Geoga­lot­tery, and a host of other lo­cally pro­duced pro­grams.

Spon­sor­ship packages range from EC$200 to $5,000 per month. In­di­vid­ual dona­tions are wel­come; ev­ery lit­tle counts. Please call Ger­maine at 450 9929 to dis­cuss how you can help keep this valu­able ed­u­ca­tional re­source alive. And re­mem­ber, I am al­ways avail­able at walk­erm@candw.lc. Please get in touch.

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