St Helena Online


Rebecca’s First Class (especially for llama farmers)

Rebecca Lawrence is standing by to look after St Helena's llamas
Rebecca Lawrence is standing by to look after St Helena’s llamas

Saint student Rebecca Lawrence has gained a First Class degree in Veterinary Medical Sciences – along with experience looking after llamas.

And she achieved the highest mark in her year group at The University of Nottingham for her dissertation, on the effects of essential oils on flu infections.

She now has another two years’ work ahead of her to qualify as a veterinary surgeon.

Rebecca – who, aptly, hails from Cowpath – spent a year working with livestock on St Helena before going to England to study in 2012.

Rebecca worked with livestock on St Helena
Rebecca worked with livestock on St Helena

Her course included working on several farms with sheep, cattle, pigs and horses.

She also spent three weeks in France studying animal behaviour with llamas.

Joe Hollins, the senior vet on St Helena, said: “Rebecca has done well.

“She worked with us in the veterinary section for a year before going to the UK, and I was impressed by her dedication, intelligence and understanding, with a very quick grasp of the science and practicality of veterinary work.”

But he said she will have to gain wide experience once she graduates, “which can only be gained with the passage of time.”

He said people should not assume she would return to practise on St Helena as soon as she has qualified.

“The role here is that of a generalist, ranging through a plethora of issues such as clinical and surgical work, public health, conservation, pest control, legislation, animal welfare, fisheries, biosecurity, outbreak control… and the list goes on.”

St Helena’s chief secretary, Roy Burke, said: “Rebecca has achieved something truly outstanding in a very demanding subject.”

Rebecca thanked her friends and family in the UK, “especially my sister Laura who has been invaluable during the last three years”, and also Kedell Worboys, St Helena’s representative in London.

Her course is fully funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission – which normally only pays for three-year degree courses.

SEE ALSO: Vet student Rebecca sails to fulfil her dream

No PE teacher? Appoint one of the pupils: first head recalls the challenges of creating ‘a school like no other’

JOHN BIRCHALL has proud memories of his time setting up “a school like no other anywhere else in the world” on St Helena. He shared a few of them in a special assembly to mark on the 25th anniversary of Prince Andrew School – in a video message from China.

Some of the teachers on St Helena were somewhat nervous about the idea of moving to the big new building that was going up on Francis Plain. But young Nick Stevens had little time to dwell on the prospect: a sudden staff shortage meant he was a pupil one day, and a teacher the next.

Click the pic to read about John Birchall
Click the pic to read about John Birchall

John Birchall shares both memories in an internet address that was played to current students and staff on 3 October 2014, a quarter of a century on.

“I arrived in early summer in 1986,” he says, “to be immediately involved in a ceremony on a wet grey day on an empty Francis Plain to lay the foundation stone for Prince Andrew School.

“I recollect touring the first and middle schools to try to reassure the teachers assigned to Prince Andrew School that working in a school of this size was not quite the daunting prospect they imagined it to be.

“I recall a young Nicky Stevens being catapulted from Year 11 student to PE teacher in the space of a day on the departure of a member of staff… and being even more surprised how he quickly grew into the role under the stewardship of your current headmaster.”

Nick Stevens in his Games kit
Nick Stevens in his Games kit

The new job was the start of a career that saw Nick go on to be the creative force behind the New Horizons youth centre in Jamestown, and eventually to head St Helena’s team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

He’s also been an occasional football pundit on the BBC World Service.

His mentor, Paul Starkie, was employed as an adviser from 1988 to 1992, sent out by the UK government. He went on to work in Indonesia and Belgium before returning to PAS as head teacher in 2012 – with his St Helenian wife, Lisa, and son Zac.

John Birchall has also gone a long way since leaving the school in 1989, having served as its first head teacher. He went on to work in Oman, Spain and Indonesia, before becoming academic director of a chain of colleges educating 6,000 students in China.

“The years I spent on St Helena were among the most challenging and the most rewarding I have experienced in my 42 years of education to date,” he says in an address he posted on the YouTube video-sharing website.

Paul Starkie returned as head
Paul Starkie returned as head

“When I lie at night and dream, I often find myself transported back in some way to find myself trudging up Ladder Hill, strolling Francis Plain or wandering around Longwood. Such is the lasting impact of St Helena,” he says.

In those days, some of the older pupils were paid to attend school in an arrangement with the Public Works Department.

“I recall paying wages to all the PWD students on a Friday, assisted by Miss Doris Peters and Miss Joy George,” says John.

“And I recall taking part in the community education classes, where I made what must have been the worst table every constructed on St Helena.

“My most lasting memory was leading the proceedings 25 years ago when we held the opening ceremony.

“I remember the enormous sense of pride which echoed round the hall as the entire school, resplendent in school uniform and Prince Andrew School ties, sang the Prince Andrew School song for the very first time under the musical direction of the late Mr Eric George.

Click the pic to watch John's video
Click the pic to watch John’s video

“I recollect to this day the true sense of community that prevailed, and the way in which students felt truly privileged to have such splendid surroundings to pursue their educational dreams.”

He tells pupils: “I hope this sense of Prince Andrew School being your school, and a feeling of pride in it being a school like no other anywhere else in the world, still prevails today as it did in 1989.”

He gives his congratulations for recent significant improvements in GCSE results.

John extends “a special personal thank-you” to Basil George, who was chief education officer at the time “and whose drive and vision contributed greatly to creation the school you enjoy today.”

He ends by urging the people of St Helena to “build upon the silver jubilee spirit to take Prince Andrew School to new levels in the years ahead.”

Governor Mark Capes and Basil George were among special guests who heard music pieces from the school choir and various pupils at the special assembly. It ended with student president Lizemarie Robbertse and vice student president Chrystabel Greentree speaking about the importance of striving for success.

Watch John Bircall’s address in full here

New school head brings Saint family back home
Nick Stevens goes global from St Helena

Read the full aid mission report for St Helena

The aide memoire signed at the end of the annual visit of advisers from the UK serves as a state-of-the-island report for St Helena. The Development Aid Planning Mission 2014 report covers key aspects of life such as health, education, social services and shipping, as well as progress on the economic transformation of the island. Read the full text here.

SEE ALSO: Hospital and child safety highlighted as aid talks end

‘Island girl’ Kerisha masters the art of study

Kerisha Stevens MA
Kerisha Stevens MA

Kerisha Stevens didn’t want to leave St Helena to earn a normal university degree – so she stayed home and got an even better one.

She has been awarded a Master of Arts degree by the University of Leicester in the UK, after two years of studying alongside her full-time job as a government press officer.

Her qualification is in Communications, Media and Public Relations.

kerisha video 450Click the pic to see editor Kerisha on video (2009)

Her assignments included writing 15,000 words on the topic, Television, the Internet and Young Saints – reflecting technological changes that came to the island much later than the rest of the world.

Kerisha had already scored a distinction in a media diploma course.

She said: “Gaining this degree is my biggest achievement and after two years of intense study it is such a relief to have completed it successfully.”

She often had to work late and night and in the early mornings.

Kerisha met government minister Alan Duncan in London
Kerisha met government minister Alan Duncan in London

Kerisha left Prince Andrew School after serving as head girl, and found herself, aged just 18, editing the St Helena Herald – signing her weekly editorials simply, “Kerisha”.

In that role, she featured in a video made by island teenagers for the BBC’s School Report project, commenting on the prospect of local television news on the island.

On her personal website, she says that “being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” as an editor soon wore off, so she took a job as a press officer at The Castle in Jamestown.

“On an island of just 47 square miles it’s easy to dream of bigger and better things,” she writes.

“But, being an island girl at heart, I channeled my ambitions in to learning more and striving for the best that I could be on an island virtually in the middle of nowhere.

“I found myself wanting to play a part in the island’s future and get stuck into island affairs.”

She says trying to build people’s faith in government is challenging, but a role she enjoys.

Early in 2013 it took her to the UK to gain experience in the press offices of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development – where she met the Minister of State, Alan Duncan.

She also spent time with the island’s public relations agency, Keene, writing an article for its website about her experiences.

Ian Jones, chief public relations officer at The Castle, said of her degree: “This is a tremendous achievement and I pay tribute to Kerisha for all her hard work and her dedication to completing her studies – which I have witnessed first-hand.  She is a credit to the island.”

Kerisha’s website
An Island Girl in London – Keene website
We Want TV News – BBC News School Report


April’s degree will help solve island’s social ills

April Lawrence BSc
April Lawrence BSc

University graduate April Lawrence will be returning to Half Tree Hollow in October 2013 with skills that could be used to tackle social problems on St Helena.

She has been awarded a strong 2:1 degree in Sociology and Psychology by the University of Portsmouth.

Her studies included modules on childhood, youth and social problems, crime and social control, risk and society, neighbourhoods and communities, and violence.

St Helena Online has been told there is disturbing anecdotal evidence of domestic violence on the island, and a campaign has been running alongside an initiative by police that has led to a number of arrests.

Prison sentences have been passed for child sex offences on a number of occasions.

St Helena Government has confirmed that April’s skills will be of special value in tackling social issues on the island.

Alongside her studies, April worked as a volunteer, supervising contact between parents and children who rarely saw each other.

The was also a trained mentor for Motiv8, an organisation that helps young people make better life choices.

Kedell Worboys, the island’s UK representative, said: “April has been a hard-working and dedicated student and thoroughly deserves her award.

“She will make a positive contribution to the social services on St Helena and is a shining example to other young people on the Island.” 

April will graduate from the University of Portsmouth on 23 July 2013, then return to St Helena in October.

Domestic violence story archive
UK offers to help reduce offenders’ risk to society

Neil invests efforts to win degree course prize

Neil Francis of Sapper Way been named the top student on his finance and investment degree course at the University of Brighton, in the UK.

He is to be awarded a prize for being the best-performing first year student. 

He said: “I was really surprised to have won the award which I wasn’t expecting at all. I still hadn’t received my end of year results when I received the letter saying I had won, so I had no idea how I’d done!”

Neil left St Helena in August 2012 to commence his four-year course.

Pupils beat tough targets – but boys’ literacy is ‘unacceptable’

Children in St Helena’s primary schools have beaten a challenging target for improvements in English and maths. Figures for science are still being finalised.

But three pupils did not take the Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) because of their “low current attainment”.

Education director Colin Moore said he was deslighed, but added that girls were still out-performing boys.

“There are a small but significant group of boys who have yet to reach any real standard of literacy that would be acceptable,” he said. “For these children we must do better.”

Thirty four children took the tests, out of a possible 40. Pilling, Harford and St Pauls schools all achieved “significant improvements”.

In English, 68% of pupils reached the benchmark, level 4. Last year the figure was 46% and the target was 60%. In maths, 55% of pupils achieved level 4, against a target of 50%.

A government statement does not give the numbers of children achieving the hard-to-reach level 5, or falling below level 3. Full details will be presented to the education committee in September.

Colin Moore said: “The children and teachers have worked very hard over the past year and we should all congratulate them on achieving the best set of results that the island has seen in many years.

“There are some individual children who are performing very well indeed.

“The number of children at level 5 is the highest we have seen. These children are potentially the future leaders of the island and it is important that we enable them to realise their ambitions by building on their current success when they transfer to secondary school.

But he said: “Our standards still need to rise further. In the UK last year, just over 80% of children achieved level 4. That is what we must aim for.

“I would also point out that the achievement of boys is still significantly below that of girls.

“Nevertheless, there is much here to celebrate and we now have a foundation of good results upon which we can look to improve further.  I am delighted that these targets have been exceeded.”


Sustainable Development Plan (Education: see page 7)

Rebecca holds a white lamb

Vet student Rebecca sails to fulfil her dream

Five or six years from now, St Helena’s animals may be in the care of the island’s first home-grown, fully qualified veterinary surgeon.

Rebecca holds a white lamb
Rebecca has hands-on experience

Rebecca Lawrence, of Cowpath, has won a Commonwealth Scholarship to study veterinary medicine and surgery at the University of Nottingham.

Competition for the scholarship is strong but Rebecca’s achievement is especially significant, because it is rare for students to be funded for more than three years. She has secured an award for the whole of her five-year degree course.

She sets sail for the UK with four other former pupils of Prince Andrew School who are going on to further study: Leonie Ellick, Neil Francis, Zedella Young and Jamie Peters.

Joe Hollins, the island’s current vet, said: “Rebecca has been on work placement with the veterinary and Livestock section for the past year.

“She proved to be a quick learner and a great asset to the section, assisting with surgery and clinics, setting up data bases, working in the poultry unit and accompanying staff to treat the day-to-day ailments of livestock and pets.

“She also became greatly involved with our pedigree flock of Dorper sheep, and Samson the Ram is missing her even now!

Slobbering dog in sun glasses
Rebecca will find no shortage of patients

“She shows all the correct attributes of someone who will prove to be a first class vet, and I hope the year she has had with us will mean that she is actually a more advanced, practical hands-on student than most who will have gone straight from school without a break.

“It’s a long, hard slog, not just to become a qualified vet, but to gain the practical experience that only time and exposure to clinical cases can provide.

“She has already learnt that in this profession you never stop learning – animals will always find something new to do to themselves, and new viruses are born to plague us almost every year.

“I know the section here at ANRD wish her well for the future and we’ll be watching her progress with great interest and pleasure.”

The five students leave the island in August. They will be met in the UK by government representative Kedell Worboys, who will help them get established with family and friends in the new home cities.

Leonie will study business management and marketing at Bath Spa University, Neil is studying economic at finance at the University of Brighton, and Zedella will study human geography and journalism at the University of Hertfordshire.

Jamie, who is part-sponsored by Enterprise St Helena, will undertake various motor vehicle courses at Barnfield College in Bedfordshire.


An inspiration to everyone on St Helena and a wonderful role model for our childrem – well done Rebecca.
– Catherine Turner, St Helena

Such wonderful stories of celebration and success coming from home this week. Congratulations to all of you and God bless you for safe travels on board the RMS.
– Doreen Gatien, California,USA.

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