There's a lot of attention being paid to the fate of our students ahead of the reopening of the traditional school term on September 4.
The covid19 pandemic continues to threaten to derail the overall education system with, lamentably, no clear consensus or leadership on the issue of vaccination.
Shortages in basic equipment like laptops and tablet devices continue to distort the virtual classroom, highlighting serious shortcomings in public procurement and placing pressure on communities and the private sector to play a greater role – which they might not be able to in the current economic circumstances.
Further, rumblings among teachers and their trade unions in relation to a host of changes and plans for the management of classes has made the situation even more volatile, especially given the feeling that the need for consultation is not being adequately acknowledged, as well as the positions being adopted in opposition to the State with regard to vaccination.
So it is good to see the business community paying attention to developing the skills of young people, skills that might help them to take little steps towards the big and exciting possibilities that lie just beyond the miasma of the present-day confusion.
One example of this was a recent two-day workshop hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce Trinidad and Tobago (Amcham) for students between 13 and 18. About 50 students were given introductory lessons on basic coding concepts as well as music theory.
“Ultimately, the goal is to provide increased opportunities to unlock the talents and skills of our citizens so that we are creating the next generation of artist engineers, tech entrepreneurs and business leaders that would be vital to building the tech ecosystem in TT,” said Amcham CEO Nirad Tewarie. “To be honest, we really want to show the kids that learning something new can be fun too.”
Mr Tewarie noted the benefits of knowing about coding in the current job market as well as its transferable skills. Coding is useful, for instance, in music production.
“Coding is a skill that teaches problem-solving in a logical and creative way, improves interpersonal skills, expands creativity, and strengthens the ability to bounce back quicker from failure,” Mr Tewarie said.
This initiative – which was also supported by artists like Nailah Blackman and DJ Robbie from Kes the Band – is a great example of the kind of doors that need to be opened for our young people, in a situation in which learning opportunities are becoming increasingly fraught. Little wonder almost 500 students from 120 schools asked to be included.
Another example, though one involving technology of a radically different kind, of an initiative rewarding young people with new skill sets was the state-run Grow it Yourself kitchen garden competition.
Young people are unafraid to embrace different ways of doing familiar things, as demonstrated by Nikolai Hart Hopley’s aquaponic garden, which earned him first place in Tobago in the contest.
Mr Hart Hopley used YouTube, among other things, to teach himself how to develop a system that grows patchoi, lettuce, mint and chive, proving that the classroom is not the only space for learning and that young people need support in more ways than one.