Mold is not the only problem at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College!
The motto of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College is “Pursuit of Excellence”. But what happens behind the scenes is a long way from excellent. Viewed from the outside, everything seems near perfect. The College appears to be going in the right direction as far as educating the island’s youth. And while in the past it has produced some very upstanding citizens, things are rapidly falling apart.
Before the June 6 elections, the SALCC’s Board of Governors was headed by Ms. Fortuna Anthony. Many felt she ran the institution as if she were a prison warden. It was either her way or no way at all. Staff were stripped of all authority. The principal, Mr. Urban Dolor, was no exception; neither the Human Resource Manager. Their every decision had to be confirmed by Ms. Anthony. She was not without her accomplices. They have succeeded in flushing down the toilet what once was Saint Lucia’s leading educational institution.
The College acquired a new principal from the Bahamas because the few Saint Lucian applicants who made it to the interview stage didn’t quite cut it. Staff were overjoyed finally to have someone who seemed impartial. But before long she too drank the Kool Aid. The consensus is that current College leadership is clueless. The less said about the vice principal, a former librarian, the better. Easily ruffled, she tends to place her personal feelings above the needs of the College.
Every year, in the College’s plans, there is allocation for physical works to be done during the summer. However, for years this has not been the case. Entire summers go by with very little attention paid to the grounds for the upcoming cohort of students and staff for the new academic year. The consequences on the College community have been awful. Every single building on campus is plagued with mold and/or termites. Staff and students have been falling ill; complaining about one shortcoming or another.
Only now, at this critical stage, do we see desperate attempts at making improvements. Had the buildings been properly maintained on a yearly basis, the current state of affairs would have been avoided. Some buildings are currently condemned or closed: the Victor Archer Building that housed the A-Level division; the library which is a cesspool for everything unhealthy; the Teacher Ed building. This brings us to the current situation: some divisions of the College have to be temporarily relocated to George Charles Secondary School, allegedly to permit certain works. At present, staff of Division of Teacher Education and Educational Administration, Information Technology Services Department and the Hunter J François Library are misplaced because of the above issues. SALCC is toxic!
The College sits and literally waits for some Good Samaritan to say, “Here’s a check for a million dollars.” Management refuses to seek funding to maintain the College but constantly gripes about subvention cuts. It attempted to have fund-raising events not too long ago but no one seems to know the outcome. Speculation is rife. Ideas from staff and students are summarily dismissed, evidently because they did not come from the right place.
Even after staff have had to endure these horrible conditions, while most local businesses were celebrating their year’s achievements with staff awards and staff parties, SALCC staff could only look on and dream. There is no appreciation for College staff. Management seems unbothered! Staff coming home from getting their degrees are returned to their old positions - with no salary increases, no promotions.
Students are fed up. They pay for facilities they do not enjoy: no space available for classes; poor air quality in buildings; lack of furniture; no place on campus to purchase stationery; study areas are compromised. Students are left little choice but to protest publicly. Temporary fixes are sometimes undertaken but the core problems continue. It’s like placing Band-aid on jugular wounds.
Mismanagement is destroying the once sought after place to be employed and get an education. Those in positions to assist appear to have other interests, mostly personal. The last principal who really made a great effort to push the College forward, to go out and find funding, who demonstrated concern for staff and student welfare was Dr Beverly Lansiquot. With a new government in office, we are patiently awaiting the new Board of Governors. We pray Dr Gale Rigobert will provide soon the medicine the College so badly needs at this time!
Education Minister Dr. Gale Rigobert: Can she provide the demanded panacea for all that ails the SALCC? By all accounts mold is not the institution’s only health hazard!