News

RESOLUTION TO BORROW $16.18 MILLION TO FUND THE UNIVERSITY OF THE BAHAMAS TRANSFORMATION PROJECT

The Bahamas, 06 Oct 2014 (Bahamas Information Service) –
HOUSE COMMUNICATION
HON. JEROME FITZGERALD
MINISTER OF EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
RESOLUTION TO BORROW $16.18 MILLION TO FUND THE UNIVERSITY OF THE BAHAMAS TRANSFORMATION PROJECT
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
6TH OCTOBER 2014

Mr. Speaker
I rise to move a Resolution for the borrowing of $16,180,000 for the College of the Bahamas to assist in its transition to the University of the Bahamas.

Mr. Speaker
I wish to take this opportunity again to reiterate the governments focus on education as not only a priority but as a core national value. Everything begins and ends with education! The Prime Minister has stated that “Education not money is the cure for poverty and education not jails is the solution to crime”. Education and the ability of a nation to deliver quality education at all levels are at the heart of a nation to sustain itself. Education then is a national imperative and should be everybody’s business.

Mr. Speaker
There are so many positive things happening in education today and I will address some of those particularly in primary and secondary schools.
Before I do though, I wish to express my disappointment and many in the educational system when some persons in the Union leadership or the media either misrepresent the facts or present to the public a story without any factual basis.
One such story ran a week and a half ago on NB 12 about violence in the schools. The reporter apparently relied on as her only source as the president of the B.U.T and stated that there was persons with ankle bracelet in the public schools and that one was accused of murder another had hit a teacher that there was a multiple stabbing in the bathroom of another school. To make matters worse the reporter showed a video that was 3 years old to make the point. Needless to say the principal and staff of the 2 schools identified were outraged at the bogus claim and appeared with myself and other education officials to put the facts on the table. There were no stabbings.

Mr. Speaker
What followed was a wild goose chase to find this student who was charged with murder wearing an ankle bracelet in our school and this student wearing an ankle bracelet who struck a teacher. The reporter could not point us in any direction except the President of the B.U.T. We called every High school over a 2 day period and could not locate either one of these students. In fact we could not even find a student with an ankle bracelet on. To be sure I then sought the assistance of Ministry of National Security who had the company that monitors the ankle bracelet contact me. I requested a list of all 15-18 year olds who were presently wearing an ankle bracelet. Of that list only one was charged with murder. The monitoring records show that not only had that individual not been in the vicinity of any junior or senior high school, but also apart from 1 who appeared at the gate of a school one day, none of the others who had ankle bracelet attached had stepped foot on any school campus in New Providence.

Mr. Speaker
I cannot tell you the anxiety this story caused not only for the Ministry but for thousands of parents and their children who attend public school. The hysteria was over nothing!

Mr. Speaker
I would not say there is no violence on public school campuses. But what I would say and continue to say is that over the past 2 years since the re introduction of school policing and a closer relationship between the school based police and the administrators, the violence has been reduced dramatically to a level where it is so low that it is no longer on our radar. We are satisfied that there is order on our campuses and we are doing everything possible to mitigate against school violence. I have made it clear not only by my words but actions that there is a zero tolerance for violence on the public school campuses.

Mr. Speaker
I appeal again to the media to just check with the Ministry on any claim you receive about our public schools. We have nothing to hide and I have attempted to be very pro active in responding to any issue or crisis which arises in our schools and that will not change.

Mr. Speaker
The school is only a microcosm of our society. There was fighting when I was in school over 30 years ago. So yes from time to time this will happen. It is not endemic. In fact believe it or not for some children the school is there only refuge from an otherwise unfortunate environment.

Mr. Speaker
Let us focus on the present and future and leave old stories of 3 years where they are…Old stories!
Positive News
National exam results- best is over 10 years
We have dedicated teachers and administrators who go above and beyond the call of duty each and every day and are committed to the academic success of our children. We in the Ministry of Education are excited about education, especially with the new initiatives that have been launched by the Ministry.
• Last year we recorded the best national results in more than a decade particularly in the BJC Mathematics Exam where there was a 20% increase in the A-D passes
• The INSPIRE Project formerly Support Program for Transformation of Education and Training (SPTET, concluded in March 2014 having accomplished the Regulations and National Standards for Early Education and the Regulations for Inclusive Education being tabled in the House of Assembly and adopted last school year. As a result of the success of the INSPIRE Project, approximately five million dollars ($5,000,000) was spent to install fully functional computer labs and E-literacy capabilities in every junior and senior high school throughout the archipelago.
• The Bi-Partisan Committee for “A Share Vision for Education 2030” submitted a draft report for a 15 year plan for education in The Bahamas. I am expected to present the final Bi-Partisan report to Cabinet prior to presenting it to the House of Assembly and the country; which I hope to do in the near future.
• The National High School Diploma (NHSD) programme was launched at the start of this school year. The current 10th graders will be the first recipients of the NHSD in 2017. The NHSD will establish a benchmark for what is considered a minimum basic education that every child should obtain before leaving the school system and will include standards for academic achievement, attendance and punctuality, job readiness and community service.
• The establishment of the Achievement Unit which will use data to assist the Ministry and administrators in making informed decisions regarding intervention strategies for students and/or schools.
• The opening of the Mable Walker Professional Development Institute; to facilitate the training and re-training of educators and other Ministry employees.
• The Special needs school at the former Our Lady’s Catholic School will be a center for intervention, training, teaching and research for students with mild to more serious learning challenges.

BAMSI
Mr. Speaker
It is difficult to comprehend why there is opposition to BAMSI. I am only comforted that there was also opposition to Independence, National Insurance and the Defense Force. Those persons sat on the wrong side of history for various reasons; political, genuine fear of change and because the PLP is proposing it then it must be wrong. Those who oppose BAMSI now also sit on the wrong side of history.

Mr. Speaker
The Christie led government has achieved and will achieve many milestones during this term in office but none of more significance than the opening of BAMSI and the transition from the College of The Bahamas to the University of the Bahamas. Both (of these projects are) the brainchild of the Rt. Honourable member for Centerville.

Mr. Speaker
The Official Commencement of the Academic Programs and beginning of classes at the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI)
Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) is intended to be the center piece of Government’s Agriculture and Food Security Policy for the Bahamas.
BAMSI will have six principal components:
1. Academic Component
2. Outreach/Extension Component
3. A Tutorial Commercial Farm
4. Agro Processing Component
5. Marine Resources Development and Fisheries Component
6. A National Scientific Research registry
The BAMSI campus is under construction which is expected to be 90 % completed and ready for occupancy in January 2015.
The tutorial commercial farm is being gradually developed and now has a full developed and functional plant nursery; 25 acres of bearing banana trees; 15 acres of bearing papaya which will enter the market as early as October 17.
The tutorial commercial farm will, in November 2014, expand to introduce broiler chicken and egg production simultaneous with pig and small ruminants to complement the existing breeding stock of sheep and goats.
The outreach/extension program has commenced and is providing tractor and land preparation services to the farmers of North Andros at prices that is 33% below the current open market prices and seedling are being made available to farmers at 70% below the prevailing market prices. Farm development and business services are also being provided.

Against this background, note the following:
1. That the Academic component of BAMSI has commenced with the commencement of classes of instructions on Monday 29th September 2014

2. That the amount of students admitted for enrollment is 45 coming from 9 Islands and broken down as follows:
a. Eleuthera 1 student
b. MICAL 1 student
c. San Salvador 1 student
d. Grand Bahama 1 student
e. Exuma 2 students
f. Long Island 2 students
g. Abbaco 6 students
h. Andros 12 students
i. New Providence 19 students

3. That there was a five day orientation period for students

4. That there was an ecumenical service dedicated to the official commencement of the academic programs, held at the St. Mathew’s Anglican Church in North Andros which was conducted by the Lord Bishop of the Bahamas, the Rt. Rev’d. Laish Boyd

5. That all the lecturers required for the delivery of the courses being offered during this semester have been identified, retained and engaged.

6. That the students are temporarily accommodated in two locations which are hotel properties that are leased for three months.

7. That a shuttle bus owned and operated by BAMSI provide transportation for the students from their places of abode to the classroom facilities and other areas of learning

8. That a press conference and tour headed by the Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Local Government and Marine Resources was held and signaled the official start of the academic component of BAMSI

School of Chemistry, Environmental and Life Sciences
Academic Board Approved Associate of Applied Science in Agriculture Degree Programme

Course Status Course Abbr./No. Course Title Pre-requisite(s) – P
Co-requisite(s) – C Cr
Year I Semester I
Major AGRI150 Plant Science P – First year standing 2
Major AGRI151 Animal Science P – First year standing 2
Major AGRI152 Soil Science P – First year standing 3
Major AGRL110 Best Farm Practices I P – First year standing 0
Gen Ed – Literacy ENGW119 Writing and Rhetoric I P – First year standing 3
Gen Ed – Student Development COUN100 Freshman Seminar P – First year standing 1
Gen Ed Comp Lit CIS 100 Computer Literacy P – First year standing 1
Gen Ed Humanities (100/200 level) See course requirements 3
Elective 100/200 level See course requirements 3
Year I Semester II
Major AGRI160 Plant Protection P – First year standing 3
Major CHEM115 Introductory Chemistry P – First year standing 4
Elective 100/200 level See course requirements 3
Major AGRL121 Land Clearing and Soil Preparation P – First year standing 1
Major AGRL111 Best Farm Practices II P – AGRI110 0
Gen Ed Numeracy (100/200 level) 3
Gen Ed Literacy (100-200 level) ENGW120 English Writing and Rhetoric II P – ENGW119 or Permission of Chair/Instructor 3
Year II Semester I
Major AGRL210 Best Farm Practices III P – AGRI111 0
Major AGRI213 Agricultural Economics and Marketing P – Second year standing 3
Major AGRI214 Animal Health P – Second year standing 3
Major AGRI220 Protected Agriculture P – Second year standing 2
Major AGRI233 Soil Fertility P – Second year standing 4
Gen Ed Foreign Language* See course requirements 3
Gen Ed PE/Health/
Nutrition (100/200 level) See course requirements 2
Year II Semester II
Major AGRI230 Post-Harvest Management P – Second year standing 3
Major AGRI250 Agricultural Trade and Regulation P – Second year standing 3
Major AGRL211 Best Farm Practices IV P – AGRI210 0
Elective 100/200 level 3
Gen Ed – Social Sciences (100/200 level) See course requirements 3
Gen Ed Foreign Language* See course requirements 3
Gen Ed Natural Sciences (100/200 level) See course requirements 3
TOTAL NUMBER OF CREDITS IN PROGRAMME 70

Mr. Speaker

The MOU between COB and BAMSI has been agreed and it is intended that it will be executed this week. The framework for the Agreement was understood early and both sides proceeded with the understanding that COB would design the courses and curricula in conjunction with BAMSI. COB would have responsibility for the oversight of the academic component of BAMSI inclusive of screening of applicants, course design and content, hiring or approval of lecturers, approval of final exam papers and general oversight and monitoring of the program. This at a cost agreed between the two parties.

Mr Speaker

The relationship between COB and BAMSI is similar to the one which COB has with UWI; where UWI operates courses in the Bahamas at COB which UWI has oversight of to ensure that the UWI standards are maintained and that the degree meets the standard of any other UWI degree. The only difference here is that instead of COB paying UWI for this oversight and degree, BAMSI will pay COB for this franchise.

Mr. Speaker

BAMSI so to speak will be a revenue earner for COB. BAMSI is not a sham as some have indicated. BAMSI is not using COB to legitimatize itself. The students are for real. The Lecturers are for real. The Buildings are for real. The courses are for real and the degree will be a COB degree and that’s for real! So let those who have ears hear and those who have eyes see! For nothing is worse than the man who has eyes but refuses to see!

COB transition to UB

Mr Speaker

On August 20 2014 I announced that The Cabinet of the Bahamas had accepted the recommendation of the College Council to appoint Dr. Rodney Smith as the next President of the College of the Bahamas. I laid out in detail the challenges surrounding the appointment but stated that Cabinet and I found it instructive that all the Unions represented at the College supported the appointment. Dr. Smith had in a written statement accepted responsibility for his past actions and those Bahamians who sat on the Committee which recommended his termination 9 years prior were not of the view that his past mistake should be held against him 9 years later. For my part I wanted to be satisfied that Dr. Smith past mistake would not be held against the college during our accreditation process to University status. I was assured by persons involved in the process that it would not be and I was therefore comfortable supporting the recommendation of the Council to my Cabinet Colleagues.

Mr. Speaker

Cabinet supported the recommendation but it did so with 2 conditions which I expressed during the press conference from a written text.
“I now therefore authorize the College Council to negotiate reasonable contract terms with Dr. Smith consistent with terms agreed previously with former presidents taking into consideration the usual cost of living increases. I also wish to indicate that Cabinet was also united in the view that if financial terms and benefits can be agreed with Dr. Smith that the term of the contract in the first instance should not exceed 3 years with the usual option to renew. In light of everything that has transpired the Cabinet felt this was a reasonable and prudent position to take.”
Mr. Speaker
I am pleased to report that the Council adhered to those conditions and Dr. Smith salary is exactly the same as the previous president and his benefits are exactly the same save that he requested a housing allowance instead of the using the house COB has rented for presidents for the past 10 years and Council agreed. The 3 year term was also agreed with a 2 year option.

Mr. Speaker
No great city or country exists in the world without a distinguished center of higher learning and Nassau and The Bahamas will be no different. The establishment of the University of The Bahamas will be a defining moment in the annals of Bahamian history. This Resolution today to borrow $16,180,000 from the Caribbean Development Bank is an important piece of the puzzle.

Mr. Speaker
The College of The Bahamas (COB) was established by an Act of Parliament, October 30, 1974. It was created through the amalgamation of four institutions: The Bahamas Teachers’ College, San Salvador Teachers’ College, C. R. Walker Technical College and the sixth form programme of The Government High School. COB’s mandate, among other things, is “to provide a place of education, learning and research of a standard required and expected of a College of the highest standard”. In 1995, a new COB Act was passed, and among other things, changed the nomenclature of the executive team from Principal to President, and positions of vice-presidents were established. By this 1995 Act, the College was given the authority to grant bachelor degrees and was afforded greater autonomy for its financial and administrative affairs.

Mr. Speaker

The College presently offers certificates, diplomas, and undergraduate and graduate degrees and has a student population of around 5,300. COB’s main campus is the Oakes Field Campus. The School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions is housed at the Grosvenor Close Campus and a third campus, the Northern Campus, is located on Grand Bahama. COB has also established a number of distance learning centres on Family Islands within the Bahamas archipelago.

Mr. Speaker

In keeping with this government’s National Policy Directive COB is in a process of transition to university status, and is scheduled to achieve University status before the end of 2015. The College has identified a number of priority areas for development, including the rehabilitation and expansion of its facilities. COB also engaged consultants to prepare a Facility Master Plan, and the space needs of the College have been informed by the findings of that exercise.

Mr Speaker

This loan comprises five components; the project’s main focus is enhancing the capacity of COB to provide quality tertiary education. This is being pursued through enhancing its capacity for tertiary education provision, improving the governance and management system, improved service delivery and technical and technical assistance. These components support the transformation of COB for wider reach of its programmes and improved quality and responsiveness to labour market needs.

(a) Enhancement of the learning environment: This component will expand and upgrade the physical facilities of COB, including security and energy efficiency enhancements:

Enhanced Education, Infrastructure and Equipment
(1) Design and construction of a Halls of Residence to accommodate approximately 100 students in accordance with requirements specified by COB, and the Construction of the Business Centre with provision for:

(a) (6) classroom spaces for teaching;

(b) (1) student lounge for student interaction and study;

(c) (1) faculty lounge with kitchenette;

(d) (1) computer lab and (1) conference room;

(e) (6) faculty offices;

(f) (2) offices designated for the chairman and his secretary; and

(g) (1) a lecture theatre.

(h) Parking facilities – at grade parking for the Business Centre and to replace the parking spaces lost by constructing the building on an existing parking lot, inclusive of lighting, etc.;

(i) Landscaping, including external furniture, planting, etc.; and

(j) Drainage works – including catch basis, pipes, wells, retention ponds, etc. required for the conveyance, storage and disposal of storm water from the site of the Graduate Centre.

In addition, project funds will support Information Technology equipment and furniture
(2) Energy enhancement rehabilitation of the Keva Bethel Administrative Building and Hotel Training College;

(3) Upgrade of the security system. With the expansion and upgrade of COB facilities and as the physical assets increase in value, security becomes a bigger concern as more persons utilize the institution’s spaces. The Security Department, with much smaller staff complement compared to previous years, require adequate campus surveillance capability to maintain acceptable levels of security. The project will fund the preparation of a Security Master Plan and installation of an upgraded security surveillance system based on the Master Plan.

(4) Improved service delivery. Improvement in Distance Education capacity to provide increased access to underserved communities especially in the Family Islands: The focus of this sub-component is enhanced access to education and training opportunities through Distance Education mode, particularly for students in the Family Islands. Enrolment in the DE programme is expected to more than double by 2017 catering to a range of programmes particularly in Education, College Prep and professional development areas.

(a) Upgrade of a Learning Management System including a virtual classroom platform. This relates to upgrade of the Moodle platform and related technology enhancements for seamless delivery of programmes and improved student access/interaction online;

(b) Technology upgrade (equipment) of the DE Unit (New Providence) and DE centres in Andros Island, Exuma, Abaco, Eleuthera, Long Island, Bimini, San Salvador and Cat Island. This involves the establishment of technology-enabled classrooms to facilitate video-conferencing; installation including an improved telephone system and wireless coverage and installation of a Document Management System;

(c) Development of eight online courses. The more subscribed courses will be converted to digital format, be gender responsive and facilitate greater access by students; and

(d) Training of staff. Short-term training, using mainly online modalities, will be provided to staff to better support DE. In addition, 20 staff members will be trained in course writing and instructional design for online programmes.

(5) Improved governance and management system: This component will support the institutional enhancements needed to facilitate the transition to university status and improve the institutional framework for governance, effective management of the institution and quality assurance:

(i) Consultancy services to assist with:

(a) drafting of the legislation for the establishment of the University of The Bahamas (UB).

(b) establishing a Risk Management Office and Development of an ERM. ERM is a critical part of the institutional framework of higher education institutions which understand the value of having a structured process designed to identify, assess, prioritise, prevent, manage and report on those key risks which may have an impact on the institution’s ability to achieve its strategies and objectives. The consultancy services are to assist COB with the development of an effective system to manage strategic, financial, operational, compliance and reputational risks. Part of the technical assistance includes training for approximately 250 persons.

(c) establishment of Quality Assurance (QA) Unit and the development of a QA Framework. Consultancy services to support the design of a QA framework including the establishment of a QA Unit develop a compliance framework, policies and procedures, as well as, training for approximately 200 staff and other stakeholder bodies. The TOR is attached at Appendix 6 to this Schedule;

(d) enhancing the financial management. Consultancy services to support the restructuring and enhancement of the Finance systems in COB. The technical assistance will propose institutional reforms for Finance, develop policies and procedures manuals, and recommend an appropriate results-based performance system and management information systems for operational effectiveness. Relevant training will also be provided to approximately 80 persons.

(e) enhancing the HR management systems and revision of administrative policies and procedures for all departments/units of the institution. The technical assistance will propose institutional reforms for HR management in COB, develop policies and procedures manuals, and recommend an appropriate results-based performance system and management information systems for operational effectiveness. Relevant training will also be provided to approximately150 persons in areas such as customer service, communication and change management.

(f) preparation of a Strategic Plan for the UB which will provide a planning and programming framework for the development of the University. The Strategic Plan will build on the recommendations and roadmap for transition to university status as proposed in the University Transition Report.

(g) development of a Strategic Marketing framework to support and enhance recruitment and cultivate support for and trust in UB, while advancing the institution’s brand. This process will involve collaboration with stakeholders to determine the best approaches to maximize both existing and potential revenue generating sources. In addition, the technical assistance will assist in devising and implementing strategies to build local, regional and international student enrolment for short term and long term studies as well as independent and collaborative research. A key policy issue which the strategy will address is the need to target underserved groups including males, whose participation in COB programmes typify their under representation in tertiary education generally.

(h) Establishment of a Research and Innovation Centre.

(ii) Training for:

(a) Approximately 70 senior and middle management staff in strategic planning, leadership, budgeting, and conflict resolution, communication and customer service;

(b) Approximately 150 administrative staff in technology skills, communications, office management and supervision; and

(c) Approximately 13 College/University Council members in university oversight and governance.

Mr. Speaker
I am proud to say that apart from the tabling of legislation to establish the University of The Bahamas, which will be done before end of 2015, I have accomplished all of the mandates set by the Governor General in the Speech from The Throne.

Mr. Speaker
There is still a lot of work to do. We are at the implementation stage where the heavy lifting is. Reform and accountability are setting in. We intended to raise the academic bar, close the achievement gap and instill confidence in our education system.

Mr. Speaker
Before I close I want to pay tribute to the hard working cadre of administrators, lectures, teachers and support staff who I have the privilege to lead.

I want to encourage parents and students to continue to strive for excellence and lets make education not only a priority but a core national value.

Mr. Speaker
I wish to conclude by thanking the Prime Minister for his continued support. Also my Cabinet Colleagues for their encouragement and their unwavering support.

Mr. Speaker
I conclude with the words of the father of our nation Sir Lynden Pindling:

“Freedom does have a price. It is not free. Freedom means responsibility, a responsibility to properly look after our families and ourselves; and citizenship demands more than simply paying taxes and voting for one’s leader. In addition, each of us has a sacred duty to love and protect this blessed land God has given to us, to build it up and make it better for future generations. All of us have a stake in being Bahamian.”

Mr. Speaker

May God continue to bless you, all of us who have the privilege to sit in this place and most importantly the people who make up this extraordinary and unique country we love so dearly.

I so move.

Most Popular

To Top