Education in Dominica
Dominica is a beautiful island with volcanic peaks, hot springs and rain forest canopies. We know a lot about Dominica as a traveling destination, but what do we know about education in Dominica?

Who is Responsible for the Education in Dominica?

The responsibility for primary and secondary education in Dominica falls in the hands of The Ministry of Education and Human Resources, an organization that helps educate and prepare students. Their mission statement is “to educate and prepare all students to live productive lives in a complex and changing society.” The Ministry is dedicated to providing students with support and leadership. The Ministry is also responsible for implementing policies and standards. In addition, they supervise early childhood education.

Other prominent agencies include the Curriculum Unit, the National Documentation Centre Database and the National Library Services. The Curriculum Unit is responsible for maintaining a curriculum framework and handling teaching materials and examination provisions. The National Documentation Centre Database and the National Library Services are in charge of the country’s libraries and archives.

Primary and Secondary Schools

The academic year begins in September and ends in July. The system is structured so that primary school runs from grade one to grade seven and secondary school runs from grade eight to grade 12.

The last two years of secondary school are not free. Therefore, students who wish to attend university must have the money for it or acquire a scholarship. Unfortunately, there aren’t many scholarships available. For this reason, many people are unable to attend school and escape rural poverty through further education.

Higher Education

Higher education in Dominica is divided into three categories: state, external and private.

Dominica State College falls under the state category, as it is a public-funded institution. The State College provides certificates and Associate’s Degrees. It is also beginning to award bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

Under the external category lies the University of the West Indies. The University of the West Indies does not have a campus on the island, but it does have a division. The division provides some first-year studies and full degree programs.

Under the private category lies All Saints University School of Medicine, International University for Graduate Studies, New World University and Ross University School of Medicine. Ross University School provides courses for U.S. citizens. In fact, only five Dominicans are allowed to enroll every year.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Dominica
Dominica is an eastern Caribbean nation with clusters of coastal communities and a sparsely populated volcanic interior. The top diseases in Dominica are chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs), responsible for 52 percent of deaths. According to a survey taken in Dominica, from 2005 to 2009, the main causes of death were strokes, diabetes, and heart diseases. The survey also shows the number of deaths on the island due to CNCDs:

  • Strokes, coronary ischemia, heart disease and hypertension: 333 deaths
  • Diabetes mellitus: 228 deaths
  • Ischemic heart disease: 206 deaths
  • Malignant neoplasm of prostate: 176 deaths
  • Hypertensive diseases: 165 deaths
  • Acute respiratory infection: 137 deaths
  • Other forms of heart disease: 120 deaths
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 96 deaths
  • Heart failure: 84 deaths
  • Malignant neoplasm of digestive organs and peritoneum: 66 deaths

According to Pan American Health Organization director Carissa Etienne, Dominican health statistics are concerning. “For every three persons, one has high blood pressure. For every five persons in Dominica, one has diabetes. For every four persons in Dominica, one has high cholesterol. For every two people in Dominica, one is overweight or obese,” Etienne said.

Most diseases in Dominica are caused by preventable risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol. These can be prevented with a change in lifestyle.

According to healthdata.org, in 2015, the highest cause of death in Dominica was from cardiovascular complications, at 55.8 percent. Chronic kidney disease resulted in the most combined death and disability, affecting more than 30 percent of people that year. The second-highest contributor was cerebrovascular disease, with more than 20 percent of people becoming disabled.

Furthermore, diabetes is becoming a prevalent disease in Dominica. From 2005 to 2015, diabetes affected 19.9 percent of the population. According to the International Diabetes Federation, in 2015, there were 6,000 cases of diabetes. Pan American Health Organization representative for Barbados Godfrey Xuereb said the prevalence of diabetes in Dominica had risen from about five percent in 1980 to almost 15 percent in 2014.

The number of CNCDs is very high. However, Dominica has been holding conferences to address the situation. Doctors have brought this problem to light, and have been working on ways to help people stay aware of their health and to take care of themselves.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr

 Hunger in Dominica
With a GDP of nearly $5.2 million and a population of 72,680 people, the Commonwealth of Dominica is considered an upper-middle-income country, according to the World Bank.

While the average citizen does not regularly face hunger in Dominica, many still face malnutrition through the introduction of the Western diet. Approximately 55 percent of all foods consumed in Dominica are imported, which contributes to a calorically dense, yet nutritionally weak diet and increases in diet-related non-communicable diseases like obesity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and local clinicians alike have identified obesity to be a persistent issue for the island country, with clinical data estimating 24.8 percent of adolescents to be overweight and 9.1 percent obese in 2016. The WHO has enlisted a series of nutritional initiatives and campaigns to reduce obesity through nutrition counseling and promotion of unprocessed foods.

Dominica is also especially susceptible to natural disasters due to its location in the Caribbean. Hurricanes and tropical storms can severely stunt the island nation’s food production, as seen in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika in 2015. The Agriculture Minister at the time, Johnson Drigo, reported over $200 million in damages to Dominica’s agricultural sector months after the tropical storm had passed.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has contributed much to the literature surrounding nutrition security in Dominica, as well as measures to improve it. The FAO and the government of Dominica have agreed to collaborate over the 2016 to 2019 timeframe in three primary categories: food and nutrition security, agricultural health and food safety; risk management, building resilience to climate change; and sustainable rural agricultural development.

For instance, the FAO aids Dominica’s National School Feeding Program in connecting school lunch programs to local farms and improving nutrition education among students. The FAO also recognizes that domestic agriculture and fisheries production contributes significant food culture and nutrition value for the population.

When it comes to natural disaster relief, the FAO invests in the short-term, emergency recovery efforts of small farmers and supports long-term, emergency relief planning and agriculture disaster risk management.

While hunger in Dominica may not be the most pertinent issue in the country’s food security, the key to minimizing hunger, obesity and malnutrition alike may lie in improving sustainable nutrition development and in preserving and protecting local agriculture in light of natural disasters.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Quality in Dominica
Dominica tourists and residents can rest easy. According to a Nov. 22, 2016 statement from the Dominica Water and Sewerage Company Limited (DOWASCO), the water quality in Dominica follows World Health Organization requirements and is safe to drink.

On November 21, 2016, Dominica was rattled with social media rumors claiming that the water caused illness in two tourists, resulting in one’s death. The viral message, spread through WhatsApp, warned readers to boil water before drinking after an investigation revealed toxins affecting the liver.

The next day, DOWASCO swiftly responded, advising that the water was tested daily, and during the September-November 2016 testing period, the presence of coliform bacteria was at zero or less than one colony-forming unit per 100 millimeters. DOWASCO reported that these results were within World Health Organization (WHO) drinking water guidelines. Results in hand, DOWASCO fired back at the rumor, calling them “baseless and slanderous and against the best interest of the public.”

Despite DOWASCO’s assurances, the Dominican government swiftly entered the fray to conduct its own investigation. On November 23, 2016, the Ministry of Health (MoH) held a press conference to address the issue. Chief Medical Officer David Johnson supported DOWASCO’s statement and reiterated that the rumor was without merit and caused unwarranted concern to residents and visitors.

Johnson reported that the MoH actively monitors drinking water quality in Dominica through weekly field tests, biweekly bacteriological analyses and annual sanitary assessments of all the water collection points in Dominica. He stated that the samples are even sent to other labs, like the Caribbean Public Health Agency, for further referral.

Johnson concurred with DOWASCO’s findings regarding the water quality in Dominica and reassured the public that the Ministry of Health had no worries about the quality of the island’s drinking water.

Concerning the rumor that someone died due to water contamination, Johnson stated that the country in which the alleged death occurred must investigate and report the issue to the WHO. He advised that if the death is determined to be a result of drinking water quality originating from a foreign visit, Dominica would receive a report.

Johnson indicated that the MoH was very concerned and was actively collaborating with the WHO to get to the source of the rumor.

Gisele Dunn

Photo: Flickr