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Collection: INTERAMER
Number: 35
Year: 1994
Author: Kenny D. Anthony
Title: The Legal Framework of Education in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)

Decentralization of Management

In some islands, some decentralization of the management process is conceded to Boards of Management.346

These boards are administrative devices intended primarily to recognize the right in the property of certain schools by bodies involved in education, historically or otherwise.

The Acts of Saint Christopher and Nevis,347 Grenada,348 and Saint Lucia349 make provision for Boards of Management in assisted schools, and in Grenada350 and Saint Lucia,351 Committees of Management “for any government school or schools.”

The Boards of Management of the schools in Saint Christopher and Nevis352 and Saint Lucia353 “shall act in accordance with any general directions of the Minister concerning the exercise and performance of [their powers and duties under the respective Acts].” Surprisingly, Grenada does not impose a similar duty on Boards of Management or Central Boards of Management where they exist. It is clear, however, that with the possible exception of Saint Christopher and Nevis, the underlying intention of the Acts is to confine the duties of the Board of Management to the physical plant. Consider the following provisions in the Saint Lucia Education Act.354 Section 13 says:

Subject to the provisions of this Act, a Board of Management with regard to Assisted Schools under their management
(a) shall have the management of all matters relating to the establishment of schools, the maintenance of existing schools, the rebuilding or extension of schools and such other matters as may from time to time be referred to them by the Minister;
(b) shall be responsible to the Minister for the efficient maintenance of schools under their management, for the provision of requisite furniture, and for keeping school buildings in a good state of repair and sanitation;
(c) shall furnish such returns as the Minister may from time to time require;
(d) may appoint or suspend or retire a Manager for a school or schools, and may delegate to a Manager such of their powers and duties as they may think fit provided that the Minister may require a Manager to be retired;
(e) shall generally have and exercise all the powers, duties and functions conferred on them under this Act.
In Saint Christopher and Nevis, a board may, “from time to time as may be necessary, appoint or suspend or dismiss the staff of the school, and may delegate to such staff such of the powers and duties of the Board as it may think fit.”355 Such a power could only be intra vires the Constitution if the teachers involved are not public officers within the terms of the Constitution. Be that as it may, this is a surprising concession. It is inconsistent with the wider trend in the region to place teachers under the jurisdiction of Service Commissions.

In Grenada356 and Saint Lucia,357 the Minister may appoint Committees of Management to government schools. A committee, “shall have and exercise such powers, functions and duties as are conferred on it ... by the Minister.”358 In the absence of a committee, the school falls under the control of the Chief Education Officer in Saint Lucia.359 In Saint Vincent, a committee of official visitors may, by order, be appointed by the Minister “to advise on and assist with the management of government primary schools.”360 The Minister may confer on the committee “such other duties and functions” as he determines.361 In Grenada, the Minister “may designate the Chief Education Officer, or Education Officer or an Assistant Education Officer as Manager of the School, and the officer shall have and exercise such powers, functions and duties as the Minister may confer.”362

It is unfortunate that Boards of Management are confined to managing primarily, though not exclusively, the physical plant. Were these Boards constituted differently and conferred with additional powers, they could be used as devices to decentralize decision making and to involve the community more intimately in the management of the schools. Real powers and responsibilities should be conceded to these boards. They could be a force for the democratization of the management of schools and the enhancement of accountability throughout the school system.

Democratization in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Of the several states under review, the only country where an attempt, albeit a cautious one, has been made to democratize the management of education is Saint Vincent. It was noted earlier that provisions were enacted to empower the Minister to appoint Governing Boards “for each government secondary school,”363 and an Education Board for each tertiary institution.364 Interestingly, the Minister may also “appoint a Board of Management for a government primary school where it appears to him to be desirable to do so in the interest of economy and efficiency.”365 Unfortunately, all the members of the boards are appointed by the Minister.366 It is unfortunate that the major partners were not permitted to elect or recommend representatives to the various boards.

Another concession to participation and representation is the recognition of student government. The Act recognizes the establishment of student councils and a National Students Council.367 However, it is left to the Minister to enact regulations “concerning the constitution, rights, powers and responsibilities” of these councils.368 Formal recognition is also conceded to Parent Teachers’ Associations. Following the Barbados precedent, section 56(2) of the Act declares that the objects of such associations “include the promotion of the interests of the school by bringing parents, members of the community, students and teachers into close cooperation.”369 The role of these associations could have been strengthened by the inclusion of a provision allowing the wishes of parents and their organizations to be considered by the Minister in the education of students in the terms mentioned above.370