To all our valued educators, students, parents and guardians greetings and welcome to this academic school year, 2019-2020. I am excited to welcome you back to school to begin a new and exciting school year which holds many prospects and opportunities for all our students, teachers, principals and parents.
Parents, our capable and conscientious principals and teachers have already engaged in several planning and training activities in preparation for your children at all levels, our little ones who are entering school for the first time, those who are attending new schools and those returning to their various institutions of learning.
Each year brings new challenges and positive changes in our school system. How we respond to the various issues that confront us will indeed determine whether they become challenges or opportunities for upward mobility.
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, through the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation and Information, is pleased to announce several initiatives on which we have embarked for this new school year. These initiatives are geared at improving the quality of education provided in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for our students.
We have embarked on a country wide School Improvement Programme in which over six million dollars is currently spent to refurbish and retrofit about ninety four of our schools. This is the first time since 2001 that so much money is spent at any one time on learning institutions in this country. Under this School Improvement Programme, some schools will be fitted with brand new furniture as we seek to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of our students.
We are grateful to BRAGSA, BNTF and our local contractors who have worked hard to ensure that these facilities are ready for the reopening of schools. Although the work may not be completed in every school, enough has been done to make them functional as they reopen their doors to our teachers and students.
A few of our students and teachers at Park Hill, New Grounds and Calliaqua will be housed in temporary facilities, since more extensive work would be carried out on their buildings. We therefore request that principals, parents and teachers collaborate with us as we seek to complete the work in the quickest possible time. We assure you that your schools will be more comfortable and safe for our students when the work is completed.
On behalf of the Ministry of Education, I therefore take this opportunity to implore all principals, teachers, students, parents and the community to see these upgraded facilities as your own. Show your appreciation and respect for the work that was done by using them wisely. We also solicit your cooperation in ensuring that these buildings and furniture are well taken care of and maintained to ensure their longevity for years to come.
Our Government has also taken the initiative, based on the current needs in our education system, to strengthen and expand counseling support for many more schools. This support, which would be effected by the Student Support Services, is intended to provide assistance for students who are in need of emotional support.
It is our responsibility as a society to do all in our power to bear up our young people and guide them into pathways which would direct them away from crime, violence and bullying. We also solicit the assistance of teachers, parents and all stakeholders in providing healthy avenues for our young people to thrive and flourish.
There is also an exceptional emphasis on Special Education this year. While we continue to encourage inclusive education at all levels, further steps were taken that ensured a cadre of teachers received the requisite training to work with our visually impaired students.
We have also embarked on a new initiative to extend the academic programme at the Fairhall Government School to facilitate students at the secondary level.
This is done with the intent that the students registered at this school will receive academic support specific to their learning needs. Some of these are truly gifted and others require special academic support to propel them into realms that will birth their potential. Therefore, the Grade Seven or Form 1 in this institution is designed to meet the needs of these students.
This initiative follows on the heels of the opening of a new secondary school in
Canouan designed to meet the needs of the students on that Grenadine Island who are moving from primary to secondary level education. The school caters to the needs of students entering Grade Seven, (Form 1) and is intended to relieve the students from the difficulties associated with travelling to the mainland or other Grenadine Islands to access secondary level education.
These initiatives have implications for staffing. Therefore, the Ministry of Education is in the process of ensuring that all institution, from Early Childhood and up, are appropriately staffed so that teachers can deliver the curriculum to students.
My dear principals, teachers, students, parents and valued stakeholders, the objective of this government, through the Ministry of Education, is to make learning available and accessible for all persons in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, regardless of their status and aptitude.
We are proud of the quality of students that our learning institutions are producing. Many of our students have done well in this year’s CAPE, CSEC, CCSLC and CPEA Examinations. They are making adequate use of the opportunities available to them at all levels. Forty years ago these opportunities did not exist. However, today, our government continues to provide numerous opportunities for students and teachers to upgrade themselves.
I take this opportunity to wish all our students success, our little ones at the Early Childhood Centres, Primary, Secondary, TVET and those at the Tertiary level. I want to caution you to respect your teachers and cooperate with them. Take control of your learning process as far as possible and research your work.
We are living in a fast changing world and as you have the opportunity, make use of your talents and unearth your potentials. I also encourage our hard working teachers to continue to give of your best. There is good in all of you. Grow the good and get rid of the damaging. Most of all, ask the God of wisdom for guidance and direction during this school year because He is the God of all Grace and Wisdom.
I wish everyone a productive and safe school year.