Love Oh Love, Bad Publicity!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

It wasn’t so long ago that the Lam­birds Academy scan­dal singed our dig­nity, when a num­ber of Asian stu­dents trav­elled to beau­ti­ful Saint Lu­cia ex­cit­edly in the pur­suit of higher ed­u­ca­tion, only to be scammed and abused in mul­ti­ple ways. Even­tu­ally they were re­im­bursed (re­port­edly) and al­lowed to re­turn home but only af­ter a pro­fu­sion of of­fi­cial prom­ises that turned out to be as fake as the ad­ver­tise­ments that had lured them here in the first place.

It seemed for more than a year that the sys­tem had con­spired to cover up its own part in the scam: the stu­dents were re­quired to hand over their pass­ports, then were forced to wait for their re­turn. Mean­while they were not per­mit­ted to work. They sur­vived thanks mainly to the gen­eros­ity of to­tal strangers.

Min­is­ter Guy Joseph, MP for Cas­tries South-East, briefly re­ferred to the in­ci­dent dur­ing this week’s House de­bate of the Agree­ment Es­tab­lish­ing the Caribbean Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Au­thor­ity for Ed­u­ca­tion in Medicine and other Health Pro­fes­sions (CAAM-HP). He said young Saint Lu­cians had paid sub­stan­tial amounts to at­tend al­legedly ac­cred­ited schools, only to dis­cover much later the con­trary truth: that the in­sti­tu­tions were not in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized.

Of the many new ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion af­fil­i­a­tions now based in Saint Lu­cia, six of them are med­i­cal, nurs­ing or health ed­u­ca­tion es­tab­lish­ments. Spar­tan Health Sciences Univer­sity, pre­vi­ously known as the Saint Lu­cia Health Sciences Univer­sity, was es­tab­lished lo­cally 1980. Af­ter that it seemed like an out­break of med­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions from 2001 when the first off­shore med­i­cal school, Des­tiny Univer­sity School of Medicine and Health Sciences, set­tled it­self in Saint Lu­cia. This school was fol­lowed by the In­ter­na­tional Amer­i­can Univer­sity (IAU) in 2003, then the Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional Med­i­cal Univer­sity (AIMU) in Beause­jour, Gros Islet in 2007, At­lantic Univer­sity School of Medicine (AUSM) in Rod­ney Bay in 2010, and the Wash­ing­ton Med­i­cal Sciences In­sti­tute in 2011.

An off­shore school pro­vides ed­u­ca­tion to mostly for­eign stu­dents who plan on prac­tis­ing in the United States or Canada. In con­trast are our public schools such as the nurs­ing pro­gramme avail­able at the Sir Arthur Lewis Com­mu­nity Col­lege which serves to ed­ify lo­cal stu­dents who plan on work­ing here. Nat­u­rally, off­shore school­ing would have to fol­low in­ter­na­tional ac­cred­i­ta­tion guide­lines to be ac­cepted in other coun­tries. Said MP Joseph, ac­cred­i­ta­tion has been an is­sue with which some of the uni­ver­si­ties have strug­gled over the past sev­eral years.

At the height of the Lam­bird’s Academy saga, the CEO of AIMU ap­peared on Rick Wayne’s TALK in 2015. When ques­tioned about his school’s sta­tus, he failed to give a clear re­sponse but he bragged about Kenny An­thony’s in­volve­ment as a lec­turer at his school. It is not clear whether the then House op­po­si­tion leader was aware of the ac­cred­i­ta­tion sta­tus of the school - now in­volved in lit­i­ga­tion.

Stu­dents who com­pleted their med­i­cal pro­grammes at the Spar­tan Health Sciences Univer­sity be­fore Jan­uary 1, 2009 are not al­lowed to take the Pro­fes­sional and Lin­guis­tic As­sess­ments Board (PLAB) tests. This as­sess­ment would ac­knowl­edge that in­ter­na­tional med­i­cal grad­u­ates are qual­i­fied to prac­tise medicine or health sci­ence in the United King­dom. The rest of the med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ments in Saint Lu­cia are listed un­der “qual­i­fi­ca­tions which may be ac­cept­able” for the PLAB test, mean­ing in­di­vid­u­als are still not sure of be­ing able to do the test.

The Med­i­cal Coun­cil of Canada re­cently posted that stu­dents from AIMU, AUSM, IAU, Wash­ing­ton Med­i­cal Sciences In­sti­tute and Col­lege of Medicine and Health Sciences (Des­tiny Univer­sity) will not be el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for li­cen­sure or ser­vices of the Coun­cil if they have grad­u­ated af­ter Jan­uary 1, 2018. The sit­u­a­tion is sim­i­lar with the US.

“Over the years, we have not had the nec­es­sary leg­is­la­tion to be able to hold in­sti­tu­tions that come to this coun­try ac­count­able for what they are propos­ing,” said MP Guy Joseph, hence the bill to es­tab­lish the CAAM-HP which was adopted by the House this week.

But what about the stu­dents who at­tended school be­fore this bill was passed? Some fear they’ve wasted time and money. Oth­ers worry about where they will find the funds to pay for tu­ition at an ac­cred­ited univer­sity. Still oth­ers who have grad­u­ated won­der what their next move might be. At this week’s House meet­ing Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet ac­knowl­edged suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments had not been stern enough with the lo­cally-based schools but he would now seek a spe­cial ar­range­ment with the over­seas au­thor­i­ties.

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