12 May, 2009


Comprehensive Education Review Team preparing report for Government. I learned quite by accident that there is a Comprehensive Education Review Team. They are examining the state of comprehensive education in Anguilla. They are interviewing people, and examining the facilities at the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School. They will prepare a report for government. I was grateful to the Team for giving me an opportunity recently to address them. I offered them my views on Anguilla’s secondary school education system. I told them exactly what I think. This, in summary, is what I said:

Based on my exposure to Anguilla’s sole high school, in my estimation fewer that 20% of this year’s Form VI graduates will enter the work force, or go on to an institution of tertiary education, able to either write, or to express themselves verbally, anywhere near a Form VI standard. The exceptions are all the children of professionals. I assume their parents put pressure on them to achieve and to excel in school. Those children who do not come from equally ambitious backgrounds are not being helped by the present school system. I had not realised that the Comprehensive Education System, as it works in Anguilla, is designed to ensure that only the children who are the beneficiaries of additional home schooling would reach an acceptable standard of basic education on graduation from the High School.

I am conscious that the secondary school system is not the only, or even the main, culprit in this failure shown towards the students of Anguilla. I understand that the children’s education problems start long before they reach the High School. It is unfair to expect the High School staff to overcome by themselves, and without resources, the obstacles placed in the way of the education of our young people. They are the result of wider social problems.

Parents, who were too busy to read to them when they were very young, are partly to blame.

The primary schools are graduating students who cannot read or write.

Most Anguillian school children are latch-key children. There is frequently no adult present when the students come home after class to encourage them to study and prepare. Too often, the only real family is the neighbourhood gang.

Drugs, alcohol and pornography on the internet are pervasive. These adversely impact young persons in Anguilla when they are left to their own devices.

The paucity of the facilities at the High School is noticeable. The school library serves as the Form VI students’ lounge. The books are in the mess you would expect. I have not asked, but it is unlikely that any student, other than a sixth former, would dare to enter the school library.

The public library is no substitute. It is a place for students to go to gossip and to play computer games. The different reading rooms in the library are not invigilated when there are students in them, as they ought to be. The public library of Anguilla is distinguished mainly by the absence of worthwhile literature and reference works. There has been no attempt to build up a permanent collection of regional and international classics. There has for years been a culture among the public library staff that if a book is old then it must be deemed soiled and fit only to be disposed of. Anguillian children are too precious to be made to handle a used book. Several of my students have told me that they have not borrowed a book from the public library to read for either pleasure or instruction in over ten years. Their explanation is that there are no books worth reading in the public library.

There is no invigilated study room in the school, as there ought to be, for students who have no class to sit quietly and study. The result is that there are groups of boys and girls hiding in corners of the schoolyard laughing and chatting at all hours of the day.

There is no supervision of the students in the school yard during breaks or at lunch time. I understand the Teachers’ Union is opposed to it. I have not asked Emma if it is true. This abandonment of the students encourages them to engage in bad behaviour. It reinforces their perception that there are no consequences for bad behaviour. Foul language on the school grounds is commonly overheard, among boys and girls. There is no one to report their misconduct.

Even if anyone did report unacceptable behaviour, there is in practice no penalty of any consequence. There is, eg, no invigilated room for misbehaving children to be made to stay back after school in punishment. Class control is not managed by rules or procedures, but by the force of the individual teacher’s character. Teachers do their work in terror of some abusive parent storming into the school and assaulting them.

Many of the teachers I meet are disillusioned and disgruntled. The teacher’s common room is a dump. I have never seen more than five or six teachers in it at lunch time or at any other time, except when the Principal holds briefing meetings. The explanation I have been given for its present dilapidated state is that it is old, about to be replaced, and not worth repainting.

In my humble opinion, there is no necessity for the education authorities to compound all the wider social faults and defects in Anguilla by providing an education system that seems designed to ensure that the present generation of Anguillian students will not be able to hold their own when they grow up and go out into the real world.

In my humble opinion, the comprehensive education system of Anguilla, as I have found it, is a major disappointment. Anguilla’s children are being cheated out of a decent secondary education. A majority of Anguillian students leave the ALHCS essentially uneducated. Radical reform is needed. I am not qualified to make recommendations on how to reform the system. I will leave that for others who are more qualified than I am.

I was pressed by the team at the end of the interview to find something positive to say about the system. I got the impression they wanted a balanced opinion from me. Sorry, I don’t do balanced opinions. I am only capable of delivering frank opinions. Let the mealy-mouthed equivocators produce the balanced opinions. Anguilla has more than its fair share of those types. There will be plenty of apologists to pick and choose from. In my mind, the situation is stark, and crystal clear.

Parents, schools, and students of the 1960s and 1970s had fewer resources than those of today. Yet, the students left the education system highly educated. They left both disciplined and highly motivated. Those were the Anguillians who built the Anguilla of today that we know. The principal of the school and her team face an impossible task in producing replacements who will be equally highly educated and motivated. The existing secondary school system has totally failed the majority of the present-day graduates. Most modern-day Anguillian High School graduates are not qualified to go on to college. They are not even fit to fill the position of junior clerk in any office. They are essentially illiterate and unemployable. Except for my students, of course.

Sorry if it sounds too harsh a judgment. I tried hard, but I could not find anything more positive to say.


  1. Yes, a frank report. You are not the only personed didillusioned with the present education system. The actual cost to Anguilla over the next 10-15 years will be incalculable. As Anguilla progresses, it's requirement for trained and disciplined youths to enter the public and private business sector will increase dramatically. If none can be found locally and the government doesn't allow properly trained foreigners to fill the needed positions then business will whilt and die. Anguilla has already lost a generation to this ineptitude, I hope that we don't loose another. Education should be the upmost priority. Maybe the new governor can begin a Marshall like plan to overhaul the system.

  2. I brought books to donate for the library. Customs wouldn't allow them to enter the country as a donation unless duty was paid. The ex-pat community that visits Anguilla regularly would bring books for the library if they didn't have to pay duty. Maybe the idea could be promoted and a collection bin left in Customs?

  3. I don't think books are dutiable

  4. In the ten years that I have worked in Anguilla's school system, I have seen too many children leave the primary level without the basic ability to read. Often, when an attempt is made to have a child repeat a year, many parents overule the decision by switching their child to another school. Last I heard, any Anguillian child is welcomed at the high school when they have reached the age of 12 yrs. no matter their academic abilities (or limitations!). But, the 'straight A' 11 yr. old student must fight tooth and nail to get in! Well-meaning parents too often undermine and strip teachers of their authority and ability to control their class. Its a constant battle and one that fewer and fewer teachers want to fight!

  5. So, whether it was intended to be that way or not, what we have today is similar to what we had in the plantation days, where only the children of the privileged get any sort of meaningful education. The rest are taught only as much as they need in order to survive in their future role as servants.

    And then when they refuse to conform to our traditional ideas of education, we blame them for their laziness and make plans to build a bigger prison.

    This isn't working. I believe the PS Education knows this, and is encouraging progressive change. Anguillians don't like change. The future of our island depends on this one woman.

    I will pray for you, Chan.

  6. The above poster is correct. There is no duty on books. I find it very difficult to believe a Customs officer could get this wrong.

  7. As one of the above posts says, education is becoming in effect the right of the privileged few. Years ago, parents reinforced the teachers' disciplining of the students. Nowadays, the attitude is more like "don't you touch or say anything negative about my child." That attitude does no service to the child in question, rather it handicaps him for life. The old saying that it "takes a village to raise a child," used to be proudly true of Anguilla. Unfortunately, Anguilla is trying to be like the worst parts of USA. Anguillian culture is dying out in the generations raised by Stateside TV, which does not accurately (despite what people think) depict life in the States.

    There needs to be a movement to once again take pride in Anguillian culture, Anguillian history and Anguillian environment. The greed engendered by the aping of USA is not good for Anguilla or Anguillians. There is much of Anguilla to give us pride. Unfortunately, all our children seem to know is to grab for easy money, drugs and sex.

    Lover of old Anguilla

  8. Lover of old Anguilla, I offer you the best of luck. However, don't blame Anguillian governmental and societal failures on the U.S. This problem lies in your own back yard. - Scotty

  9. A few years ago Nick Douglas started a private school called, "Anguilla International School". This was a very good school. The teachers were excellent, discipline was good, a top notch school. The "Head of Education" at the time was Mrs Fahie and she shut it down. After Mrs Fahie shut it down I talked to her about why she did that. What she told me was that since it had "international" in its name it must be part of some international organization. Because of that she would reject as incomplete their application for not having information about their parent organization. It seems she would not tell them this real reason for rejection, but use many other minor things. I asked if she understood that really there was no parent organization, it was just this one school. She acted like she did not know and could only work from the name. I think she knew this was just some people in Anguilla and not part of some international organization.

    Seeing the head of education act in this stupid way, I figured Anguilla schools would be in trouble.

    I believe she did not want a competing school that would provide good education in Anguilla and show how bad a job the government schools were doing. There are some who think she shut it down because it would compete with a private school run by the sister of the minister of finance. I think that as long as the head of government schools can block competition from private schools, Anguilla will be in trouble.

    Mrs Fahie is retired now, but it does not seem like that has improved anything.

  10. I have visted Anguilla with a charity, now defunct operated by Allen Stanford (HERO)--needless to say we were not able to accomplish all we wanted to because of the constraints of a system we NOW know was corrupt. All this to say we operate a highschool-- www.ccset.net and want to involve other small islands so they can set up similar there and we can work together -- this year our entire graduating class is entering University-- pls contact me if you see this as something worth exploring....and check out our website


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