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The Dominica Island Scholarship

History, Significance and Winners - 1930 to Present

In Irving André's book, Dr. Desmond Mc Intyre - the Surgeon who Transformed Primary Health Care in Dominica, there is an interesting discussion about the Dominica Island Scholarship that McIntyre won. It describes the hard work entailed and the competition generated between the students of the St. Mary's Academy and the Dominica Grammar School. There is a similar discussion in Stanley Boyd's autobiography, Memoirs of a Many-Sided Newsman. In both of these descriptions, the Island Schol has the aura and seems the local equivalent of a Rhodes Scholarship. As a Grammar School boy of the 1950s, I too felt that invigorating competitive spirit and excitement. And I am sure this is shared by the generations of students competing for the Dominica Island Schol and the honor it brings. But who have been these Island Schol winners? That information is scattered here and there, but nowhere is there a comprehensive listing of these Island Scholars or a discussion of the island scholarship's significance.

The winners of the Dominica's Island Scholarship are some of Dominica's best intellectual talent. Not all by any means; for instance, before 1957, the island scholarship was awarded only every 2 years, and students in the intervening years missed the opportunity to compete. However, despite this, island scholarship winners were certainly some of Dominica's best intellectual talent. They graduated at the top of their class - some with five distinctions in the old Cambridge School Certificate days; others, more recently, with four distinctions at the Cambridge Advanced Level Certificate (A-Level). They almost never failed in the professional fields they studied; and they did that at some of the world's most prestigious universities - Cambridge, Oxford, MIT, Toronto. At the University of Toronto, for example, Judge Telford Georges' name, the 1940 Island Scholar, is inscribed on a plaque for outstanding academic performance. Further, these Island Scholars have gone on to distinguish themselves in their respective fields, some doing so internationally. It is unfortunate that there are no plaques in the high schools commemorating the achievement of their scholars.

Thus, in the Dominica context, an Island Scholar is not unlike a Rhodes Scholar in the world at large. And perhaps the genesis of the Island Schol may well have been in the example of the Rhodes Scholar. These students are bright, hard working, focused, and consistent over the long haul. They come from all socio-economic backgrounds, from all parts of the island, and succeed against great odds and solid competition. Winning the Dominica Island Schol, therefore, is a mark of excellence worthy of honor. Accordingly, we have developed a listing or honor roll of these Island Scholars since 1930, including the high schools from which they came, the high school principal, the student's professional field and the university attended. By recognizing this outstanding achievement and publishing this honor roll, we first hope to do these Island Scholarship winners the honor they deserve.

But such a listing doesn't only serve to honor the intellectual achievement of these Scholars. It also serves to recognize the legitimacy and importance of intellectual achievement in general; and to encourage our youth in its pursuit. This is especially important in Dominica today, where, currently, sports and popular music, following TV-motivated international trends, have an inordinate amount of prominence. Further, such an honor-roll is critical for Dominica in particular, where too few of this special group of intellectually outstanding students still live, so that they could have been role models for today's youth. So many have migrated to greener pastures. Let the list itself then be a modest repository of these role models. Let their achievements, academic and professional, wherever they are, be an inspiration to our youth.

And herein lies an unfortunate aspect of the island schol saga. A review of these island schol winners indicates that a significant number, about 67%, have left the island, a trend not unlike that of other students. They go to greener pastures where their skills and capabilities are more fully engaged; and where they can make a better life for themselves and their families. But notwithstanding their residence overseas, their membership in the Dominica Diaspora and their positive contributions in their adopted countries and internationally, enhance the image of Dominica abroad. And we can be proud of them. However, these are some of our best intellectual talent whose skills might be better spent at home. These are the people who would help generate new ideas, help solve our social and economic problems, who would put food on our tables and take care of our sick - the people who would help make Dominica a more viable home and a proud republic.

Unwittingly abetted by a certain complacency at home, these scholars in particular are wooed aggressively by metropolitan governments, universities and corporations. Those institutions know, for example, that these are the same types of people - the Noble laureates, the Rhodes scholars, the military and political leaders, university professors, business leaders and entrepreneurs, coming from all over the world - who help make America the great country that it is, and to which so many of us migrate. Our Island Scholarship is a sound and worthy institution. However, our society has failed to appreciate its significance, and has not understood how to attract its scholars back home. Our incapacity to keep this and similar talent at home severely impedes Dominica's social and economic development.

The history of the Island Scholarship has been influenced by both politics and finance. During the 1930s, when our data begin, Dominica was part of the Leeward Islands; and its students competed for the Leeward Islands scholarship which was awarded every two years. It is worth noting that in the 1930s, when five Leeward Island Scholarships were offered, Dominica won four. In 1940, Dominica was transferred from the Leeward to the Windward Islands, and Dominica then awarded its own Dominica island scholarship every two years. This continued until 1957, when, with the financial support of the Colonial Office, the Island Schol was then awarded every year. In the early years, the scholarship was based on the University of Cambridge School Certificate exam. This was followed by the Cambridge Higher School Certificate (the HSC); and finally, the HSC was replaced by the Cambridge A-Levels. And since the high standard of the Cambridge University high school exam is universally accepted in the English speaking world, our Island Scholars are accepted at and often go to some of the best universities and training institutions in the world.

From the beginning, competitors for the island scholarship came primarily from the Dominica Grammar School (DGS), the Convent High School (CHS) and the St. Mary's Academy (SMA), where the required academic courses were taught. All these schools were in Roseau. But beginning in 1971, with the establishment of the Portsmouth Secondary School (PSS), Dominica saw a significant increase in the number of high schools; and these were dispersed throughout the island. After this, the dominance of the Roseau schools began to be challenged.

However, in 1983, the two-year A-Level classes on which the scholarship was based, and which were taught at the various high schools, were amalgamated in the Clifton Dupigny College in Roseau. The Ordinary-Level classes continued to be taught at the individual high schools. In 2002, based on a report by Dr Hilroy Thomas, the Clifton Dupigny College was incorporated into the new two-year Dominica State College.

Part of the data for this discussion were obtained from four documents -- Irving Andre's book on Dr. Desmond McIntyre, S.A.W. Boyd's Autobiography, the Dominica Grammar School's Centennial magazine, and the St. Mary's Academy's 75th Anniversary magazine. Data were also supplied by Dorothy Leevy - neé Thomas - an Island Schol herself in 1960 - past principal of the Convent High School, and one of the two principals who has produced the most Island Schols, Rupert Sorhaindo - former principal of the St. Mary's Academy and a previous Minister of Education, Henry Volney - Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Dominica State College, and Irene Ducreay - Training Officer in the Ministry of Education; all of whom provided comments on the original draft. The draft was also provided to the principals of the four high schools that had won island scholarships for their comments - Simeon Joseph of the DGS, Cuthbert Elwin of the SMA, Josephine Dublin of the CHS and Stephen Frampton of the PSS. Additionally, information was also obtained from several people currently or previously associated with the Dominica educational establishment, and from interviews and contact with quite a few Island Scholars themselves or their relatives. There were conflicts in some of the data, but we resolved these with supplementary sources and interviews. Despite this, there are still a few pieces of data missing. This will be corrected as the data become available. If you have any of this data, please let us have it.

You will find the attached honor-roll comprehensive and informative - scholars, dates, high schools, school principals, professions and universities. It is also interesting from a socio-economic perspective - in the large number of these island scholars, potential technical and intellectual leaders and high productivity people, who have migrated; and in the number of teachers' children who were island scholars.

As indicated above, numerous people helped in developing this honor-roll; and I am grateful for their invaluable contribution.

Davison Shillingford
August 2007

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