Chamber president: Cayman schools 'segregated'

Government policies that separate expatriate children from the local public school system harm efforts to fund educational and school athletics programs and make relations between Caymanians and expatriates more tenuous, the president of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce said.  

The issue arose last week when Chamber President Johann Moxam was asked whether better-funded private schools in Cayman have better sports and educational facilities than public schools, and if that puts Caymanian children at a disadvantage in both areas.  

Mr. Moxam was participating in a panel discussion on sports, youth and crime Thursday at the Cayman Economic Outlook conference. Other panel participants included government’s Director of Sports Collin Anglin, FIFA Vice President Jeff Webb and Cayman Islands Rugby Union Director Richard “Grizz” Adams.  

Only Caymanian children are allowed to attend public schools in Cayman. Non-Caymanian children who reside here must attend private schools. Caymanian children can also attend private schools if they wish and can afford the tuition.  

“I think the country has suffered as a result of that [arrangement],” Mr. Moxam said Thursday. “The segregation of expatriate kids from local kids … I think the justification at the time was the lack of infrastructure and space. 

“If you’re going to build a country and you’re going to influence your local population into understanding that we are one people, if all I ever see is me and Collin when I’m at school and then we run into Grizz [referring to Mr. Adams], at some point, shock and awe takes over.”  

This comment brought laughs from the hundreds of conference attendees, including Mr. Adams, a former rugby player who still cuts quite an imposing figure. However, Mr. Moxam wasn’t going for laughs.  

“It gets worse than that,” the Chamber president continued. “You see it sometimes during the kiddie/pee-wee tournaments. There’s nothing worse than seeing a bunch of kids who are involved in the sport for the right reason and then there’s a knucklehead of a coach or a parent … ‘Get that white-boy, don’t make him do that to you.’ And I’m thinking to myself, ‘the kid’s seven years old, what in the hell does he know about those issues?’ 

“It starts when you encourage the segregation of the local kid from the expatriate kid and then you intend to build the country up as ‘we’re one, we’re Caymanians, we’re together,’ it’s silly,” Mr. Moxam said.  

Mr. Adams, a self-described career expatriate, said he sees the same issues on the rugby pitch from time to time.  

“This whole business of expat/Caymanian is ridiculous and then the divisions within that are even worse,” Mr. Adams said. “Some of the guys at rugby say, ‘Well, you’re not Caymanian, you’re a paper Caymanian, and you’re a 10th generation Caymanian, and you’re some other … I don’t know what half the terms mean, to be honest with you. 

“I just say, ‘Listen, you’re all going to run laps, so get on with it.’”  


If funding for public school facilities is an issue, Mr. Moxam said, he has an easy solution: “Charge a fee, figure out what the infrastructure needs are, but get people back into the point where you have to integrate and exchange and interact with one another. 

“Look at the region and everything that has gone wrong throughout the Caribbean. Do you want to do it differently? And if you do, implement policies that encourage harmony, that benefit the social welfare of the country. Break down the barriers of me versus Grizz. 

“Politics, egos and little fiefdoms get created … and that’s what stops us from doing the right thing and that’s where the country suffers. I don’t want to live the type of lifestyle with the fear that I see in other countries, I don’t want to be Bermuda, I don’t want to be Bahamas, I don’t want to be Jamaica. Those are beautiful countries, but some of their issues that they’ve got, we’re better than that. We have to believe that.”  

The government provides a subsidy each year to private schools. The amount has varied from $900,000 to $2 million per year in the past decade. For the current 2013/14 budget year, the government approved $1.53 million. 

According to public budget records, all private schools that receive such funding are required to submit records to verify compliance with educational standards, including inspections by government officials.  

Far more children attend public schools in Cayman than attend private schools. According to the government Compendium of Statistics for 2012, the latest year for which records are available, 4,956 students attended public primary and secondary schools. The number of students attending private schools for that same year was 2,787.  

Over a five-year period, the number of students in public schools has increased slightly, while private school attendance has dipped just slightly. In 2008, there were 4,579 children in government schools, compared to 2,933 in private institutions.  

Former Education Minister and current Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said during debates in the Legislative Assembly during the former Peoples Progressive Movement government’s administration in 2005-2009, that government should be taking steps to improve public school offerings so that the quality of a child’s education is not dependent upon how much money their parents have. 

“Both of my children are in private school,” Mr. McLaughlin said during a 2007 LA debate. “I thought they would get a better education. I want to remove that factor from the decision of any parents to come.” 

The premier’s office did not respond to Mr. Moxam’s comments during the Cayman Economic Outlook forum last week.  


Youth, sports and crime panel members at last week’s Cayman Economic Outlook forum, from left: moderator Jay Ehrhart, Cayman Islands Rugby Union Director Richard Adams, FIFA Vice President Jeff Webb, government Director of Sports Collin Anglin and Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam. – Photo: Brent Fuller

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  1. Well said, Mr. Moxam but…

    Definitely not the first time its been said, albeit from people who others didn’t wish to here it from…or said by.

    I will always pay respect to the late Desmond Seales,(RIP)who ruffled many feathers and made enemies by giving voice to politically un-popular opinions and views throughout his professional career as a newsman and media house owner but always attempted to present both sides of an argument.

    Those of us who were brave enough to call Cayman the prejudiced and segregated country that it has been for too long suffered for that courage but…

    Set the tone from which Johann can now speak, with less fear of any retribution coming his way…and possibly inspire the next stage of change that will benefit the Cayman Islands society as a whole.

    Cayman is not the only place in the world where political expediency drives discrimination and prejudice, which leads to segregation; as a matter of fact, it is the norm rather than the exception as evidenced by all the global conflicts and civil wars that have and are still taking place.

    That Johann is willing to name a spade, a spade in Cayman speaks highly of his courage and hopefully, more of his generation will continue the fight to change Cayman for the better.

    Good luck to you, my friend.

  2. This problem is not one sided; why is it that individuals always tend to choose sides?
    I recall attending public school and the segregation that comes with it, private school attendees treated us like we were less and we intimidated them.
    This is not taught by our segregation but by society; as it is considered a societal norm for Caymanian to dislike or feel robbed by expats.
    The reality is when we segregate from either side we rob ourselves, from opportunities to grow and learn from one another.
    I’m a frequent volunteer at multiple events and I can tell you from my observations that Caymanians rarely volunteer outside of those who are members of service organisations.
    Our society has bred Caymanians who feel a sense of entitlement and that they have a birth-right to flourish in Cayman. Yes, this is where generations of my family have lived; I would like to continue to prosper here and I do feel like it is incredibly difficult to be a Caymanian and survive here.
    But we are to blame. We have taken our Island for granted and have continuously behaved in an ignorant and arrogant manner within our workplaces and treat expats like they are less than us. Regardless of nationality we are all human beings and deserving of fair and equal treatment.

  3. It is very important to talk about things that one knows personally, because it then makes it easier to relate when questioned. I can agree with some comments but there are also some that are off the mark. Whether we want to believe this or not, but the man on the street corner sees and knows much more than we behind a desk know. Most of our Caymanian children are very well aware of what is happening out there. But don’t for one moment think that children from the other side of the fence are not eager to find out. They are, however; They are not given that opportunity. If there is a segregation problem observed in our community, it is not the school children’s fault. It is what they have seen and heard at home from both sides. Children are children, no matter how you take them, and all who are given the opportunity to mingle will do so. Just put a dozen children from different sides of the fence and just observe how they mingle with each other once their peers and parents are not there. They share phone numbers, share lunch, laugh and play, but as soon as the influence arrive on the scene they change immediately. I do not want to see this happening in Cayman, it is not healthy. I go into schools to do story telling and 99.9% of private schools behave properly and orderly. However in the Government run schools it is a completely different situation, except Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. These two Islands have the best. I do have the opportunity to observe so I can speak of what I see.
    Caymanian children are a bit shy, but given the opportunity, in no time they can become kings of the jungle. I do not think they feel robbed by expat children. This can be remedied at home with both sides, and remember what the original Cayman population was made from. English man, Irish man, and African slaves. That is the reason we can be either of the three when every we want to, after all it is our true heritage.