Today marks the end of my third week of practicum in St. Lucia. While I am still working on a research proposal to qualitatively study why young people are leaving school before finishing their secondary education, I have also provided input on teacher evaluations and youth engagement strategies and initiatives.
Sitting at my desk researching and writing is important but yesterday, might have been my favourite workday yet. It began with a meeting on a youth social justice arts project focusing on preventing sexual exploitation that included a fellow MSW student, a police officer, a human services case manager, two probation workers, a school counselor, a drug rehabilitation facilitator. We learned so much about St. Lucian issues surrounding exploitation, drug use, gang activity and general culture and it was heart-warming to see how they planned to continue the program after we are back in Canada.
Next, we grabbed a quick lunch and I hopped on a public bus to the office. It took a more scenic route than the work bus and I needed to walk a ways to the next meeting.
I am not sure what I was expecting but when I entered the room complete with flags and photos of prime ministers of each OECS member country, podium, chairs and media, I was reminded that I am working at an important multilateral organisation.
When it came time for me to stand up, I explained why I was here and began asking questions from the audience. I focused some questions to the students asking why they have stayed in school and why they think others left. Then I asked about differences in the way teachers and principals treated boys and girls. That was when the real conversation started. Wow, there are some amazing people with wonderful passion for education, culture and youth in this country. We went overtime with heated, enjoyable and entirely respectful conversation and debate.
A grade one teacher explained how she had a student who showed up for school every day except for Fridays. After discussing with the student on a Thursday how she would attend school the next day, she wasn’t there. The teacher had her students grab their spelling books and they walked to the other student’s home. She made sure the students where safe and then knocked on the child’s door. She asked why the student wasn’t ready for school and got her to wake up her parents.
The teacher waited while the student get ready and then all the kids walked back to class. That girl never missed school again that year.
After ten hours of work, I hopped on a bus in Castries. It was later than usual and the city seemed more peaceful – less bustle and less traffic. The bus driver was playing a Christian sermon on the stereo and I played The Clash on my headphones.
I looked out the open window with “Hitsville U.K.” in my ears while watching the buildings – some run-down, some broken, some well-kept, all colourful – and lush greenery go by. Traveling along the road watching the beautiful grittiness of an island nation as the sun set, I felt like I was in a travel montage of a movie.