The Education Sector received its fair share of negative publicity in 2017. Two of the most prominent issues hitting the media were fights involving school children and infrastructural problems such as clogged sewer systems, pigeon, bat and rat problems. However, despite these challenges there were many positives in 2017 worth mentioning. Please permit me the space to highlight some of these achievements which I think are worth highlighting and also to recognise the hard work by principals, teachers, school administrators and students.
The Morvant/Laventille School Improvement Project which is being implemented in about 20 schools in Port of Spain is specifically designed to improve the lives of thousands of students in these communities. Schools were repaired. Workshops were held on parenting in education, school safety and security, reducing school violence and indiscipline. Improving the literacy rate, inclusive of teacher training and development are other aspects of the Project. These components of the project were manifested when hundreds of these students gathered in front of the ministry during the festive season and melodiously and lustfully entertained the public with Christmas songs during the lunch time.
School violence and indiscipline reduced significantly. I agree there were fights posted on social media. However, I also noted many of these fights took place after school hours, outside of the compound. Principals and teachers must be applauded for ensuring a high level of discipline during school hours. I hope the ministry continues to work with parents, the police and other interest groups to further minimise these incidents.
Last year also saw the Ministry of Education introducing the Penmanship Programme. Students were provided with specially designed curriculum materials to improve their handwriting skills.
Fourthly, despite the significant budget cuts in difficult financial times, requests from principals for electrical, sewer, plumbing and other repairs were not neglected. Students were relocated in some cases to ensure curriculum delivery continues. Some of these schools are more than 50 years to 100 years old, thus these problems were unpredictable.
The Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) was called upon to account for many hiccups with the CSEC and CAPE examinations this year. Ministry Officials met with all secondary school principals on these issues. CXC officials were then invited to Port of Spain to answer these concerns. Additionally, CXC officials returned to Trinidad and met principals, parents and some affected students.
Greater efforts were made in 2017 to include the Tobago House of Assembly and by extension Tobago in the decision making and management of the Education Sector. Minister Anthony Garcia and Minister Dr Lovell Francis and senior officials visited Tobago, held discussions with THA officials and toured schools on the island. THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and THA Education Officials also visited Trinidad for similar discussions and visited several ECCE Centres.
Let’s hope that 2018 can see greater development of the Education Sector as we all continue to play a role as responsible citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Michelle Paul, Port of Spain