NDP VIEW : Party Pays Tribute To The Honourable John Horne

Photo Credit IWNSVG

It is with a sense of great sadness and loss, that we share our condolences on the passing of a colleague, friend and stalwart of the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Honourable John Clarke Horne. He was an outstanding Vincentian. During his time in politics, Mr. John Horne, was recognized as a highly skilled parliamentarian who served in the best interests of all Vincentians.

Mr. Horne represented the NDP in the constituency of West Kingstown after the people of that constituency petitioned him to be their representative. He went on to serve the constituency and this country with distinction from 1984 to 2001. Many will remember the popular song “Horn fu dem” which became his campaign slogan in 1984.

Mr. Horne was an effective representative. He touched the lives of the people of West Kingstown and transformed the constituency. He built of the fishermen’s lockers at Rose Place; constructed a number of retaining walls; resurfaced the village roads; constructed numerous “gouti tracks”; took pipe borne water to Great House and other villages in the constituency and built the multi-purpose hard court in Edinboro; some of the projects that he undertook in the constituency.

He was one of the most influential parliamentarians of his time, and held several port folios including: Tourism, Trade, Culture and Education. Mr. Horne made tremendous contributions to the arts and culture, but it was in the Ministry of Education he left an indelible mark. He was an exceptional Minister of Education; having served in that Ministry from 1986 to 1997.

He opined that the work of the NDP government in education has been perhaps the best kept secret for 17 years. This was not the expected behaviour of any political establishment but the truth is that the NDP was so very much at home doing things for St. Vincent and the Grenadines; it saw no need to keep trumpeting its caused. For this reason, the NDP never trumpeted the fact St. Vincent and the Grenadines was one of the few countries in the Caribbean to use development bonds and local budgetary resources to finance education and proudly through budget surpluses. The NDP’s record in education is an enviable one of which the party can be justly proud. It is indeed worthy of emulation.

The following are excerpts from a document, ‘The Real Education Story- Truth and Success’, by Mr. Horne. When the NDP took office in 1984, it was clear that the structure of administration and management of education was as irrelevant and outmoded as was the antiquated Education Act of 1937 and related regulations which were guiding the system. The following necessary and urgent steps were taken. The combined posts of Permanent Secretary and Chief Education Officer were separated. A Chief Education Officer was appointed, an Education Planner was chosen and a Planning Unit created. In addition, a Curriculum Development Officer was appointed and a Curriculum Development Unit was established and with a keen eye on evaluation, the ministry set up a Testing and Measurement Unit.

Among the earliest results of the work of the new Education Planner was the startling revelation that 60% of our school plant was grossly overcrowded. It is now history the NDP government implemented a shift system in schools to facilitate an on-going rehabilitation and expansion of schools programme without having to close any school. The result of the exercise was the rehabilitation of 40% of the nation’s schools by a committed NDP government. It is even more remarkable to note that the NDP government rebuilt/refurbished 40% of the island’s school plant in its finest effort at a cost of 7 – 8 million EC dollars, most of which was local funding.

The teaching service suffered numerous problems, poor teacher student ratio, 1:45 or more. Only 28% trained teachers were in the primary schools: very limited intake into the Teachers’ College system; overcrowded and inhospitable schools; pregnant untrained teachers were forced to resign; the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union was not recognized, and hence no possibility of bargaining for improved conditions. Also, teachers were being transferred far away from their homes; very little upward mobility, and teachers of Technical Vocational subjects were not regarded as equal to teachers of academic subjects. Therefore, training opportunities for the latter were few and far between.

The disparity in education as seen by a great many people, created a profound bias against Technical Vocational Education. This could not have been real, as all students needed a common basic preparation for any education stream. The Ministry of Education announced formally the introduction of the core subjects of English, Mathematics, Social Studies and a Science based subject. These subjects had to be pursued by all students, regardless of whether they were in the pure academics stream or in the Technical Vocational stream.

Having taken stock of what there was and where we were in education, and having put the building blocks in place, it was time to establish a sure foundation for a secure programme for the development of education. The NDP government then published in 1995 a National Education Policy which enshrines among other things, a philosophy and a Mission Statement.

It was under Mr. Horne’s watch as Minister of Education that the Community College was conceptualized and phase 1 was completed. He also played an integral role in the implementation of the Student Loan Programme which assisted students of the poor and working class to pursue studies at university.

To the Honourable John Horne, we say, “You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for you the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to you on that day”

We express our sincere condolences to his immediate family, the NDP family and friends.  May his soul Rest in eternal peace.