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School fire reveals serious cracks in emergency response in Grand Turk

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IMG_5592Providenciales, 29 Jan 2016 – Fire in Grand Turk, again at a school and the sadness over the losses is palatable with the early morning blaze which destroyed the top story of the brand new Administrative Block at HJ Robinson High.

Making matters worse, the strong view that a lack of Police, lack of a domestic fire unit, a break in and alleged arson all worked in unison to wipe out the Principal, Vice Principal’s and Records offices plus Computer Lab and Library – all were just recently commissioned for the 2015/2016 academic year. Among those on the scene early, was the Member for Grand Turk South and Salt Cay, Hon Edwin Astwood.

“I became even more upset to learn that this fire might have been intentionally started. This will have a serious impact on the students and faculty at the school as they are suffering from some great material losses at this time. This fire has exposed much shortcomings and inefficiencies in the Government’s fire response and emergency systems. I am now calling on the Government to act without delay in addressing this matter, so as to minimize the negative effects on all…”

Astwood says he has been asking for a fire department for Grand Turk for years, but he is always told this essential service is in the pipeline by the PNP Government.

Community members took furniture from the school buildings, FortisTCI cherry picker trucks lifted fire fighters to cope with the blaze.

Education Minister, Hon Akeirra Missick suspended school for the day, this may extend to next week.

Magnetic Media this morning was informed that police had a ‘person of interest’ in custody for the suspected arson; that although the security camera was smashed, the DVR recording device was salvaged.

Police give no details of the investigation, only that one is ongoing.

HJ Robinson High serves 350 students.

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

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Build more prisons or invest in a Technical Vocational School?

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#TurksandCaicos, October 26, 2021What could be more rewarding for a small developing country like the Turks and Caicos Islands, other then creating additional educational opportunities for their citizens? 

In my opinion, it’s the latter of the two, but it’s yours to ponder.

What’s troubling is, at the rate of incarceration, our prison system in the Turks and Caicos Islands could soon be at capacity.

With that being a real possibility, what are some of the proactive steps currently being taken to help secure post-released employment and or participate in education and life skills training?

Many of our young men may not have any interest in attending college or university, but has acquired other skills over the years. So, what other opportunities do we have for this segment of the population in terms of further education or trade?

Look around the country, you will find most of our workforce revolves around the service and trade related industry. Many of these workers posses untapped skills that only need to be cultivated in their area of interest or expertise.

With that in mind, offering vocational education will allow students and young adults to gain the necessary practical experience with a renewed focus in their chosen field of study or career path. This is something they may have otherwise never been able to achieve through traditional classroom learning in academia.

In the 2021 PNP manifesto under education, labor and employment, it clearly states their commitment to the following:

“Create learning opportunities for students that caters to different interest, strengths and learning needs as well as provide the diverse skills that the country requires”.

Henceforth, it’s my belief government should make further provisions to subsidize apprenticeships for our young people, so it becomes more then just platitudes.

Let’s give credit where credit is due, the previous administration was on the right track when a proposal was made to launch a vocational technical school. Unfortunately, the current pandemic may have hampered those efforts. 

Nevertheless, the idea was brilliant, and this current administration should continue to embark on this initiative and see that it materializes.

This initiative should move forward, even if it means using the leverage of our BBB+ credit rating borrowing power while we are in the position to do so. It is my belief the return on investment could be priceless.

Often times, countries mimic each other with strategies to tackle or improve different situations, but mass incarceration should not be one of them.

Yes indeed, proper facilities are needed to house and secure those committing heneous crimes.

Nevertheless, if we have learned anything from a developed country like the United States in particular, which has the highest incarceration rate per capita, we can not arrest or incarcerate our way to crime reduction.

If anything, it should be a motivation to galvanise prison reform and readdress certain issues to help reduce the prison recidivism rate.

We should be very careful with what strategies we mimic without doing our own comprehensive studies to determine the societal impact or long term benefits of an initiative.

Given the population of Providenciales, it would be the ideal location for such school. 

However, the existing infrastructure in Grand Turk, which is currently being utilized as a community college could also suffice. 

With the separate workshops already in place, along with some much needed renovations, this location would make an easy transition for maybe two or three training classes.

It would be in the best interest of our country as well as big corporations, to support such initiative. 

Case in point: Prior to the pandemic, every year a foreign company was hired to come in to train and certify our boat operators on primarily international boating standards.

Depending on the location and whether it’s a recertification or a new certification, the cost could range anywhere from $360-$650 per person, in addition to travel and hotel accommodations.

With TCI having some of the best and brightest boat captains, could this be a customized curriculum or certification offered at a trade school?

This particular curriculum should include but not limited to, local regulations best practices and navigational charts for local waters to help mariners better understand the skills they are learning. 

This could also be a joint effort between the school, DECR and Maritime departments with qualified personnel to assist with facilitating such training.

Other courses of interest should include hospitality, marine mechanics, carpentry, AC technicians etc. Specifically, areas where it would give students the opportunity for an apprenticeship on the islands.

Not only will we have a higher level of skilled workers and tradesmen, but it will help to alleviate the need for such high dependency on foreign labor force, in addition to providing a readily available recruitment source. 

In short, it is of my opinion, education should always trump building more prisons. As concerned citizens, we have a choice to make, stay silent or let our voices be heard. This is what helps to drive government to action or lack thereof.

Ed Forbes,

Concerned Citizen of Grand Turk

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Health

Hundreds Treated in First Ever Sandals Foundation, Beaches Resorts, Great Shape! Inc’s 1000 Smiles Dental Clinic

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#TurksandCaicos, October 26, 2021 – Hundreds of people have been excitingly lining up outside the Church of God of Prophecy in Five Cays eager to meet with and be treated by an incredible team of dentists and other medical professionals at the island’s first ever 1000 Smiles Dental Clinic.

The programme, which provides access to free first-class dental care and education, is operated by the United States-based non-profit, Great Shape! Inc. and is being facilitated by the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) which operates Beaches Resorts – the Sandals Foundation.

Since its opening day on Monday, October 15, approximately 700 people have benefitted from fillings, cleanings, extractions, root canals, sealants, dentures and more from a team of 60 Great Shape! Inc. volunteers.

Joseph Wright, Founding Executive Director of Great Shape! Inc. says, “We are thrilled to launch the 1000 Smiles Project in Turks and Caicos Islands, 18 years after our first project in Negril, Jamaica!  The Covid-19 pandemic has severely disabled the governments’ ability to provide routine dental care in the countries we work in. So we are finding that after nearly 2 years, the need for dental care is acute.”

In the Turks and Caicos,” Wright continued, “The story is the same.  The lines are long and the people are so incredibly grateful.  With the help of Sandals Foundation, the 1000 Smiles Project launch in Turks and Caicos has been remarkably smooth and successful despite the many challenges we’ve face in these unique times.”

Clinics are open daily 8:30 to 4:30 with its operations carefully following Covid-19 safety protocols and guidelines.

To date, the teams have enjoyed the notable visits from members of the local communities including the Minister of Education and elected representative for the Five Cays District, Hon. Rachel Taylor. Hon Taylor was able to meet with the volunteer team and discuss the potential of future programs in partnership with Great Shape! Inc. and Sandals Foundation.

Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at Sandals Foundation was elated to see the turnout of families, noting that increasing access to healthcare services is a key component of the philanthropic organization’s work in improving the lives of the region’s people.

“We are beyond pleased to see the expansion of the 1000 Smiles dental programme into the beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands. Healthy people make healthy communities and as a Caribbean organization, we are fully committed to doing what we can to invest in the long term development of the region’s health sector and services”.

“These past eighteen months have been tough for families across the world,” continued Clarke, “We are very conscious of the toll this pandemic has had on families being able to meet some of their very basic needs. Good oral health reduces the risk of developing other serious diseases and so through these clinics, we just really want to help as many people as possible take care of one of the most important health investments they could make,” Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation.

The Sandals Foundation Great Shape! Inc. dental programme has been a staple across the Caribbean since 2003, operating in the islands of Jamaica, St. Lucia and Grenada.

Here in Turks and Caicos Islands, mission volunteers are all being hosted at the Beaches Resorts with logistical, infrastructural and staff support covered by the hotel’s philanthropic arm.

 

Photo Captions: 

Header: Volunteer Dentist hard at work performing procedures

1st insert: Great Shape! Inc. Volunteer Leader, Kevon Williams and Beaches Turks & Caicos Team Member, Quinique Cartwright

2nd insert: Dental Clinic at the Church of God of Prophecy, Five Cays

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Bahamas News

Works Minister tours capital works projects in East Grand Bahama

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#TheBahamas, October 26, 2021 – Minister of Public Works and Utilities, the Hon. Alfred Sears, on Thursday visited areas of East Grand Bahama on a familiarization tour.

Accompanied by Parliamentary Secretary Baccus Rolle and Director of Public Works Melanie Roach, the delegation was joined by Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Ginger Moxey; Senator James Turner; Senator Kirk Russell; Permanent Secretary Harcourt Brown and Island Administrator Sharon Williams.

The delegation visited Water Cay and was able to examine the damaged dock; the design of the reconstructed dock has already been completed.  They visited McClean’s Town Clinic and toured Sweeting’s Cay where some buildings have been condemned, while others have been completed but need to be inspected.

After Sweeting’s Cay they viewed the damage done to the Sea Wall in High Rock. The proposed site for the comprehensive school for East Grand Bahama was also inspected.

It was at the dock in McClean’s Town that Minister Sears addressed the media. He said the purpose of the visit was to survey the capital works projects, and also get briefings from staff.

Minister remarked that it was indeed inspiring to see the generosity of international NGOs such as Core that contributed to the redevelopment and restoration of some of the infrastructure.

The Minister continued, “And of course [there’s] the University of The Bahamas where a lot of work has been done to the building and repurposing of the building to establish a center of research around sustainability and resilience.”

Minister Sears will meet with his staff on Friday morning and then complete his visit with a tour of capital works projects in Freeport and West Grand Bahama – viewing locations such as the Post Office, the Garnet Levarity Justice Centre, the Government Complex in Eight Mile Rock, the Junior High School and then on to West End to view the clinic.

 

By Robyn Adderley

Release: BIS

 

Photo Captions:

Header: A tour of Sweeting’s Cay was on the agenda for Minister of Public Works and Utilities, the Hon. Alfred Sears when he came to Grand Bahama on Thursday. While there, he was updated on the status of the school, administrator’s office, and had the chance to stop in and view the turtle pond.

1st insert: Another stop to examine capital works projects by Public Works Minister the Hon. Alfred Sears was Water Cay.  The design for the reconstruction of the damaged dock is already underway.

2nd insert: Minister of Public Works and Utilities, the Hon. Alfred Sears, accompanied by Parliamentary Secretary Baccus Rolle and other staff toured the University of The Bahamas Northern Campus on Thursday. 

MCCLEAN’S TOWN CLINIC – Minister of Public Works and Utilities, the Hon. Alfred Sears and Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Ginger Moxey, toured McClean’s Town Clinic on Thursday as a part of the capital works tour.

 

 

(BIS Photos/Andrew Miller)

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