Tag Archives: youth

Why I disagree with the decision to turn the Five Islands Secondary School into a university

On August 30th 2016, youth worker Daryl George posted a facebook note that I thought was worth sharing here; primarily because it deals with Education and by extension the youth, and that’s who Wadadli Pen’s work is about – young people (35 and younger). As you are aware, or will be after reading this, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize is about nurturing and showcasing the arts (especially the literary arts) among young people in Antigua and Barbuda. Education is a part of that; and George is a part of Wadadli Pen as the 2016 winner of the annual Wadadli Pen Challenge.

pair glen photo 22

Winner Daryl George with Douglas Allen, brother of Alstyne Allen in whose memory the plaque is named at the 2016 Wadadli Pen Challenge Awards Ceremony. While 2016 was George’s first win, he was by then a Wadadli Pen finalist several times over.

Here’s what he had to say about plans to re-purpose a new secondary school in Five Islands, Antigua into a university. Short answer: he disagrees. Here’s why.

Simply put, I’m not in favor of turning the Five Islands Secondary School (FISS) into a University. I’m going to attempt to explain why I disagree with the decision, while trying to be as fair and as balanced as possible, using as much hard data as possible, and Feel free to agree or disagree – BUT please back up your opinion with relevant data and information Background of the FISS – The decision that led to the creation of the FSS was due to the noted overcrowding of a number of schools in the St. John’s vicinity – notably the Princess Margaret School and the Ottos Comprehensive school, both of which were over the threshold of the maximum recommended number of students (http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Antigua%20and%20Barbuda/Antigua-Draft-Ed-Sector-Plan_2013-2018.pdf). A study was done by UWI/Profiles Inc, commissioned by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, to develop a draft Education Sector Plan from 2013-2018, which will be simply titled “the study” (http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Antigua%20and%20Barbuda/Antigua-Draft-Ed-Sector-Plan_2013-2018.pdf) . The study noted that PMS, OCS, and other “town” schools such as the Clare Hall Secondary School, Antigua Grammar School, and Antigua Girls High school had little space to accommodate additional structures. The study also noted that major secondary schools are currently accommodating 2.5 times (250% capacity) the students they were originally built to hold. As a result, it was deemed necessary to build new schools to accommodate the overcrowding issue. Using national census and other population data, it was found that there were two areas which would benefit the most from new school plant: the Grays Farm/Greenbay/Hatton area and the Clare Hall, Cassada Gardens and Potters Community. The decision was made to place the Grays Farm/Greenbay/Hatton School in the Five Islands community. It was funded by the Chinese government to include a gymnasium, IT and science labs and Olympic sized swimming pool. The decision to place the school in Five Islands was made allegedly due to lack of space within the communities it was intended to serve, with Five Islands being the closest point where sufficient land space was available (http://antiguaobserver.com/baldwin-spencer-displeased-with-decision-to-re-purpose-five-islands-school/). A statement was also made that another secondary school to serve the Clare Hall/Potters/Piggots community would be built in the near future at Tomlinsons (http://antiguaobserver.com/new-five-islands-school-soon-to-come/).

1. The decision to transition is not based on any relevant, country specific information or data – From the outset, the reasons given for turning FISS into a University seemed to lack any sort of relevant, country specific information, data, or study. It was noted, according to one technical official, that even after meeting with Cabinet, there has been no study commissioned that would provide any hard data or evidence that a university is more necessary, important, or urgent for the development of Antigua and Barbuda than a secondary school (http://antiguaobserver.com/npta-places-its-objection-to-repurposing-five-islznds-secondary-school-on-record/) . While there have been various justifications for the change coming from the Minister of Education and the Prime Minister, none of these have been backed up with any sort of data. It is especially concerning that no country-specific information or data has been produced to justify the decision with the ability of data driven decisions to optimize resources, reduce costs, increase accuracy and accountability, and in general create effective and efficient policy decisions (http://www.journalcra.com/article/role-data-strategic-decision-making-process).

2. Technical officials not in support of the change – A number of well known, respected, and learned technical experts and authorities have clearly articulated reasons for not transitioning the school into a university. These include Alistair Thomas and the National Parents-Teachers Association (NPTA) (http://antiguaobserver.com/npta-places-its-objection-to-repurposing-five-islznds-secondary-school-on-record/), Ashworth Azille and the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (ABUT) (http://antiguaobserver.com/abut-supports-idea-of-five-islands-facility-remaining-a-secondary-school/), educator and former principal of the Antigua State College Pecheeta Spencer (http://antiguaobserver.com/education-stalwart-favours-five-islands-school/) and others. What is concerning is that there is a notable lack of other non-governmental affiliated officials who are in support of the project. Public and technical buy in is extremely important in making effective policy decisions.

3. The move will cost tens of millions of dollars – The move to transition the FISS to a university will cost the population of Antigua and Barbuda tens of millions of dollars. As the facility was built for a secondary school and not a university, millions of dollars will have to be spent to upgrade the facility. PM Browne estimated that at least US $18 million (EC $50 million) (http://www.mnialive.com/articles/five-islands-school-in-antigua-to-be-expanded-to-become-university-of-antigua-barbuda) will be necessary to upgrade the facility into a university. Whether this is in the form of a loan, grant, or mixed funding has not yet been revealed. In addition, an additional EC$ 10 million has had to be budgeted to allow schools to accommodate additional students (http://radiozdk.com/main/2016/04/government-works-to-tackle-overcrowding-in-secondary-schools/) . It could be argued that at least some of these funds could have been saved if the FISS had been opened to accommodate some of these students.

4. Economic and social benefits mentioned are not the whole picture – Much of the argument around turning the FISS into a University has been centered around economic and social benefits to local Antiguans and Barbudans. These economic benefits include shops, restaurants, accommodation, and other businesses to provide goods and services to those working and studying at the university (http://www.caribbeantimes.ag/minister-browne-university-antigua-must/) in particular within the Five Islands community. It is undisputable that a university will provide significant employment and economic opportunity, especially for Five Islands and other surrounding communities. However, Universities often incur a negative cost on the society, particular with regards to UWI with which the University will be affiliated with. For example, the Barbados government is at least US$100 million (Bbs $200 million) in debt to their UWI branch (http://www.barbadostoday.bb/2016/07/13/uwi-crippled/) and other UWI territories such as Trinidad have had to make significant cash injections just to keep the university afloat (http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,205968.html). While it should be noted that there are other benefits to social capital that universities can provide that are not easily quantified, there must be a cost-benefit analysis done to ensure that government will be able to support any University that may be established in Antigua.

In short, the decision to establish a university in Antigua and Barbuda is commendable. However, instead of making rash policy decisions that are not supported by data and may cost the taxpayers of Antigua and Barbuda hundreds of millions of dollars, it is imperative for the policy makers to listen to the advice of technical officials and make sound decisions that are best for the long term future of Antigua and Barbuda.

Please note – if you would like to copy or quote me, please feel free to do so as long as I receive proper attribution.

Thanks, Daryl, for giving us permission to share; and for being a part of the conversation.

As a reminder, this site is not about politics but about young people and the arts (including nurturing, education); comments that veer from that will not be approved.


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“After spending months in preparation, scores of the nation’s most talented youngsters are now set to miss out on the region’s biggest cultural competition and festival. Culture Director Vaughn Walter confirmed about 70 people, including the National Youth Choir, National Youth Steel Orchestra and the nation’s culinary team have been cut from the delegation slated to attend Carifesta XII in Haiti from August 21 to 30.” This is from the Daily Observer (you can read the full article here)

I actually came across this article shortly after reading of this year’s CARIFESTA announcement and wondering the same thing I’ve wondered since I became a published author (more than 10 years ago) and started thinking representing my country and the literary arts at CARIFESTA might be something I’d like to do. Clearly, it wasn’t meant to be (and I’m fortunate to have had, through my own initiative and invitations from abroad, other opportunities to represent Antigua and Barbuda and the literary arts) but that thing I still wonder as relates to CARIFESTA is what’s the selection process (how do artistes get tapped for the delegation)? It’s such a wonderful opportunity to showcase the breadth of our creative arts, I like to hope that all Antiguan and Barbudan artists have a fair shot of getting on the CARIFESTA train. Obviously my priority is always the literary arts but in general, it’s something I still wonder. Inquiring minds. If I find out, I’ll let you know…after all, part of what I try to pass on here is Opportunities, and the budget constraints may make my questioning moot this time around, but not irrelevant in my view, as for artistes who’d like a shot at making the cut, there’s always next CARIFESTA.

Which bring me to the crux of the article (which I decided to share here primarily because it involved the arts, Antigua and Barbuda, and especially young people in Antigua and Barbuda involved in the arts which is what we’re about encouraging here at Wadadli Pen), the disappointment you can read, behind the numbers, of all those originally selected on hearing that after all the time they’ve put in in rehearsals etc, that they’ve been unceremoniously cut. Feels like the arts getting the shaft again.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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student writing workshop 2workshop 2workshop 3That’s what I think of when I look at these pictures from my Saturday afternoon session at Anguilla Lit Fest alongside Yona Deshommes of Atria. It was a fun session of letting the imagination run wild, really wild, as we nudged the participants, all very creative young people, in to imagining their own stories. It’s a reminder that when creating, or for that matter just being, you allow yourself to feel free to fly or fail or flounder when you don’t feel like your choices, your actions or inactions, your very words are being scrutinized, and found wanting. Drop other elements into the water and judgment is … inevitable. But in that moment around that table, we tried to make them feel free to imagine, because in that space there was no right or wrong, just the next sentence.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad!, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. And using any creative work without crediting the creator will open you up to legal action. Respect copyright.

See my other blogs related to the Anguilla Lit Fest here, here, and here.

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Youth Enlightenment Academy Articulates its Plans in Antigua and Barbuda

I overheard Lawrence Jardine and members of the team he’s put together on the radio yesterday, sharing their ideas re an education-adjacent programme they’re planning to launch here in Antigua and Barbuda. I’d had some pre-knowledge of this programme and the intent to create a more fully rounded, creative thinking, thoughtful type of citizen. I’m using one of the platforms at my disposal to share it with you. I chose Wadadli Pen rather than my personal blog because Wadadli Pen, like this programme, is youth-specific.

“YEA is principally a finishing school for all genders to assist primarily the public sector school system to instill values of teamwork, self-esteem, pride, conduct, behavior, civility, humanity, performance and commitment for national development in our students. YEA will escort students from Grade 6 to Grade 11 (Form 5)…

“YEA’s mission is to synchronize the community of students to adopt, internalize and implement common core societal and humanistic values to produce common performances…

“…we must place more emphasis on teamwork. We must teach the youth etiquette and civilities, and engage them in activities to develop their cognitive skills. We need to instill in their consciousness an indelible sense of pride, responsibility and commitment to contribute to the nation’s development.”

READ THE FULL DOCUMENT OUTLINING YEA’S PLANS: Antigua and Barbuda Youth Enlightenment Academy_Draft_1

UPDATED TO ADD their website link.

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DYA Seeking 2014 National Youth Award Nominees

This means that you, yes, you, reading this, if you live in Antigua and Barbuda, are challenged to look around for deserving young people, submit their names and be a part of getting them the recognition and encouragement they’ve earned through their effort, attitude, and achievement. So, get to it.

Here’s what they’re looking for:

Nominees …

*  Between 10-35 yrs.

*  Nationals of Antigua & Barbuda

*  Resident in Antigua

*  in good social standing

…who have excelled in the following disciplines –

Media – up for grabs two individual awards to young media practitioners (one nominated by the DYA, one by the public) and one for a media house who has made a significant contribution to the development of our young people as well as the positive portrayal of youth in media.

Cultural & Performing Art – up for grabs two individual awards (both nominated by the Department of Culture and the general public).

Literary Arts – both the literary community and the general public are encouraged to submit names for this award.

Visual Arts – Departments of Education and Culture as well as the general public are invited to present nominees.

Entrepreneurship – the Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Association, and the general public are asked to submit nominations.

Community Service – two awards are up for grabs – individual and youth group.

Young professional – to a young professional who through excellent and professional practice upholds the standards of his or her profession; nominations invited from the business sector and various professional associations.

Young Artisan – this includes painters, blacksmiths, masons, seamstresses, craftsmen and women of all stripes. Nominations invited from the public.

Young Pioneer Award – to a young person/group who is breaking new grounds in areas such a film; information technology, manufacturing etc.

Phoenix Award       – to a youth who have overcome the odds and like the Phoenix has risen victoriously out of the ashes!

Young Activist – awarded to a young person who has mobilized community support and action around some issue they felt strongly about.

There will also be awards, nominated by the applicable bodies, in the areas of Education, Agriculture, Tourism, Sports, and for Barbuda’s Best.

Rounding out the awards are –

Corporate Awards – given to corporate citizens for youth development initiatives; nominations are invited from sports and youth groups.

Lifetime Achievement Awards – honouring adults who have contributed to youth development – 5 such awards to be handed out – nominations are invited.

All nominations should reach the Department of Youth Affairs, at the Prime Minister’s Office Drive (off Factory Road) by August 29th 2014. For more information, call  462-6781 or email wadadliyouthdept@gmail.com

National Youth Awards Nomination Form 2014

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DYA Workshop: Hopes and Highlights

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’m posting here about the Media Workshop I was commissioned by the Department of Youth Affairs to conduct instead of posting it at my Jhohadli blog because as a youth specific event, it seemed a good fit for the Wadadli Pen blog.

It was an all-absorbing two weeks (July 14th to 25th) – by which I mean I got very little else done during that time, writing included. In fact, the only writing I remember doing was the writing that came out of my field trip with the kids from the writing workshop I was facilitating. In the end, though I’d like to think that we got a lot done during those long days.

The focus of the workshop was feature writing; and the goal given to each participant, to produce an article by the end of the second week, was achieved by almost all – and what was produced was quite thought provoking. The best of them consistent with our mantra for the two weeks: “this is not talk as yuh like but back up yuh chat.”

Each day we began by reading and discussing a feature article, pulling it apart: DYA readinghow it approached its subject, how it used language, the attitude of the writer to the subject, how the story made them feel, how the writer achieved that, what sources were used, were they effective, how was language used, was that effective, and so on. We also discussed themes and the articles covered a wide range of them – touching on girls/women/human rights and patriarchy; on female representation in parliament; on the brutality meted out to the indigenous people of the new world – this actually wasn’t a very well written one (but that too was a learning opportunity); articles on environmental activism; the marine environment; subtle forms of censorship including self-censorship; diversity (or the lack thereof) in popular culture products – books, TV, film; bullying and cyber bullying in particular – this one caught on as a number of them ended up writing on this very topic. Sidebar: won’t break any confidences but we really need to pay attention to what our kids are going through; it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world out there and confident as their posturing is, they’re really just trying to feel their way through it. Writing their experiences is one very profound way of bringing clarity and/or catharsis, and I applaud the DYA for the initiative and hope they find the funding to make it continuous.

???????????????????????????????The weeks were punctuated by a couple of field trips, one a city walkabout, one exploration of the former sugar plantation cum open air historical museum that is Betty’s Hope??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????– in the former case, the challenge was to observe and practice descriptive writing and in the latter case they were expected to journal the experience – and from that we did a pretty successful group writing exercise when we returned to base.


One said of the field trips, in the written reviews at the end of our two weeks :??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“I learned how to describe things through this experience.”


???????????????????????????????This same person added that they also enjoyed the “Morning discussions – I was able to open-up and state my views and [be] heard.”

Another approach to edutainment was video screenings of films, music videos, and mini-docs – followed by discussion and critiques. These provided opportunities for comparative analysis of different tones and styles, even or especially when there are common themes. One of the 20 or so participants said on review at the end of the two weeks that his/her favourite activity was surprise, surprise “…the movies and the discussions because I learn better that way and it is fun and entertaining.”

I don’t know what I expected of the last day but it was wonderful. Most completed their articles as mentioned; others had articles in various stages of progress. Three were selected to present. That went very well – the three presented on women’s rights, women’s representation in parliament, and corporal punishment. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I think in preparing the articles, they learned it’s easy to have an opinion, it’s much more challenging to articulate that opinion in a coherent and artful way, to back up yuh chat by putting in the research time and doing the appropriate sourcing (and crediting said sources), and just sitting down and doing the work – no shortcuts.

There were tears and procrastination, complaining and contradictory behavior – never let it be said that only old people are set in their ways; we challenged each other – prove it, I would say in the face of every conspiracy theory or wild statement and I’ve never heard “Miss” said with so many variations of whine before. So perhaps we were both a little surprised at the end to find that we had enjoyed our time together. “What did you learn from us?” one asked me at the end. “Patience,” I quipped. And that’s no joke (between lack of focus, resistance, and more I had to put it to use) but I learned more too. By finding ways to engage the reluctant learners especially, during the summer months, for six to seven hours per day, when they’d rather be outside (in theory, since even our outdoor games attracted some whining), I continue to learn (the hard way) how to teach what I love to those who may not love it as much and to those who love it maybe but need to realize that it’s more than just bursts of creativity but actual work. In this regard, as in so much else, I continue to be a work in progress.


I was in line at the ATM when I got around to reading their evaluations of the two weeks. I’d done everything I could to assure them that their feedback would be anonymous and it was. So I’ll take it at face value that they had as good of a time as they said they did. I’m not surprised that highlights for them included the films and field trips, the friendships and the music, so much music (blame me for that, I love music and it is a form of storytelling that kids can relate to). But some of their comments did reassure me that for them it was also a productive two weeks filled with learning and, surprisingly, fun.

They wrote about gaining confidence, learning the basics of journalism and how to express themselves via the written word, how to edit what they’d written, and indeed how to back up yuh chat – “balancing my thoughts with facts”. One that jumped out at me was, “after being reluctant to come, I actually learned a lot. My writing skills have improved.” And, this person went on to say, he or she, I’m not sure which, had also learned a lot about him or herself. Sidebar: I also hope they learn to question more before swallowing everything wholesale…whether it’s the finer points of history or today’s conspiracy theories.

So, let’s see, let’s see, what else did I learn…that teens are contradictory, so conservative about some issues, so off hand about other things, and seeing no irony in it at all… treating journaling like a chore (why? Why? Why? Do you journal every day????) and then naming it as one of their favourite activities…go figure…what else, what else…oh that I am “a funny teacher” … which is a neat trick considering everything else that was going on in my life at the time.

Educational…fun were the two words repeated most often in their reviews, and you know what, that’s an okay mix.

Viewing the offshore islands from Seatons.

Viewing the offshore islands from Seatons.

Potworks, empty during this sustained period of drought, a visual extension of our discussion on the environment.

Potworks, empty during this sustained period of drought, a visual extension of our discussion on the environment.

“P.S. Ms. Hillhouse, I love your approach to criticism. You never just state what needs improvement but what was great already, thereby making you approachable.”

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????(Photos courtesy the Department of Youth Affairs)

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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Poetry writing competition:

You can enter once in each of the categories or you may decide to write a poem for only one category. It is up to you. We would like each of our young people to submit at least one piece. The winning poem will be used on cards printed for distribution in the parish on Mother’s Day and on Father’s Day.

Write a short poem using not more than 10 lines and not less than 4 lines to expresses your feelings for

(a) Fathers

(b) Fathers who have no biological children, but who have cared for many.

(c) Mothers

(d) Mothers who have no biological children, but who have cared for many.


Art Competition: Send us a design that can be used to create

(a) A Father’s Day Card

(b) A Mother’s Day Card.

Note: There should be no words on this. It should be pure artwork. It can be drawn by hand – on white Bristol board/cardstock – or created electronically, but must be original work completed by the young person, 18 years or younger. The Winning artwork will be used on cards printed for distribution in the parish on Mother’s Day and on Father’s Day.

All work should be submitted to the Sunday School Supervisor or organization leader or can be brought to The Deanery, St. Johns Street.

Deadline for submission Mothers’ Day: _On or before 27th April, 2014 _

Deadline for submission Fathers’ Day: _On or before 25th May, 2014 _

Other prizes will be presented to our outstanding young writers and artist.

Prizes will be awarded in the following category: Poems and artwork: 6-10Years; 11-15years; 16-18years

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