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Opinion: COVID-19 and school re-opening in Turks & Caicos



August 12, 2020 – The Press Conference held on Tuesday, August 11 2020 by the Premier and Minister of Education left the public with more questions than answers concerning the  reopening of school.

It’s morally reprehensible that after six months, and with two weeks before the previously announced opening date, the current government cannot provide the students and parents of the Turks and Caicos Islands with a clear and concise plan to safely and effectively provide a learning environment for our children.

This same government has been able to clearly define guidelines for the reopening of bars and pubs, but now we find that it is still unclear how schools will reopen, and if so, how we can be assured that our children will be accommodated in a safe and healthy environment.

We have a moral obligation to get our children back in the classroom.

We also have a civic duty to ensure that once the school year resumes, every student is  afforded world-class learning opportunities.

COVID-19 is but a test of our resolve and as a nation we must stand to, and pass, this test.

As a parent of two school-aged daughters, I share the concern of many parents who are eager for our children to get back in the classroom; but only if it’s safe for them to do so.

We understand that while online learning is usable, is not a replacement for the traditional classroom experience, especially in the case of pupils in the primary years where attention spans are just being developed.

But we cannot send our children back to school without first seeing the Ministry of Education’s plan to keep our children safe.

We as parents demand to see the blue print of the Plan and we should be invited to do a walk through of the classrooms before schools are reopen.

A proposed solution:
Citizens and residents of the TCI please do not despair or give up hope,

There is still an opportunity to save the school year and guarantee safe and effective education for our children.

I would encourage the government to employ a phased approach to the resumption of school to allow a safe and seamless reintegration of students to school life.

Subject to the Ministry of Education’s blue print being reviewed by parents,  allow school to resume for high school students  as planned, with different groups attending school at different intervals to allow for orientation and software dissemination.

At this point, devices can be qualified and requisite adjustments made. Students can then commence online learning as retrofit works are carried out for classrooms and meeting spaces. 

Primary aged children can follow, based on how the high school students cope with the measures, to allow for integration and then the kindergarten years.

Once the online learning has commenced and retrofit works are done, students can then be scheduled to return to school in small groups on shift systems to slowly reintegrate the classroom presence into the curriculum.

The aim should be to have all students receiving at least 4 hours of classroom time per day by a timeframe and at least 6 hours a day by another time frame. It is notable considering the four hours of education as an innovation that in Finland – which leads the world in education success and rankings – children do not begin school until age 7, and then attend only from 10am to 2 pm and yet Finland leads the world in nearly every category in global education rankings. This means we should not just try to cope, but there is an opportunity to reform toward higher success.

The return to classroom learning must not be rushed and it must not be abandoned.

We have a responsibility to ensure that this generation who has been entrusted to us, is put in a position to do better and to take this country further than us. 

I understand the the Minister and Premier may be a bit overwhelmed, but I implore you all to do what is right by the students and parents of this country.

COVID-19 is everybody’s business and an educated society is even moreso.

Submitted by Mark A Fulford

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.

Caribbean News

Branch out and Tap in to greater Financial Opportunities says Robert Hall 



By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer    



#TurksandCaicos, March 24, 2023 – Teachers in The Turks and Caicos need to be allowed to market their skills to the private sector, broadening their earning potential and likely enhancing their tenure as teachers, also attached to the Turks and Caicos Islands Government. 

Robert Hall, a former Minister of Education made the edgy suggestion at an Education Week Symposium which was carried live on the TCIG’s Facebook page. 

“For instance, a good music teacher, rather than simply training voices why not get into the entertainment field?” 

Home Economics teachers and Technical Drawing teachers and similarly talented individuals should break into the industry and tap into the Turks and Caicos’ multi-million-dollar clientele. 

“Why not offer the service and you can do that at a cheaper rate.  In each case whether it is the Home Ec teacher, the TD teacher or woodworking teacher; pull some of your students along with you into those areas,” he urged. 

The presence of local job experience programs aside, what Hall is suggesting, should it be carried out, could put local teachers and students in the direct path of mega successful hoteliers, architects, artistes and more.  Some of the most successful people in the world frequent the Turks and Caicos and there have been several occasions where residents have their talents recognized and honed by investors.  

It is well known that the late Prince, a multi-award-winning singer, songwriter and producer, gave unique opportunities to Quinton Dean in music and Frank Forbes in culinary arts; one touring with him and the other his personal chef.  Forbes was also a personal chef to music and movie star, Tyrese.   More recently, recording artist Jenardo Laporte was handed a whopping $20,000 by global music mogul, Drake, when he demonstrated undeniable talent.   

Robert Hall is a firm believer.  He says that through branching out, educators would be able to seriously help themselves financially.  

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Caribbean News

Illegal immigration, still a real threat in TCI



#TurksandCaicos, March 24, 2023 – Immigration reform is perhaps the most complex policy to enact, let alone enforce without stepping on individuals human rights or on the toes of a certain group of people.  I realize there is an undercurrent of tension right now as it relates to this delicate topic, but it’s important to discuss. This is why in my opinion, no one has the perfect solution or answers, not even major developed countries.  Nevertheless, elected politicians have an obligation and a duty to come up with a comprehensive approach and viable solutions in the best interest of our the Turks and Caicos.
The impact of the recent pandemic have created even more of a nightmare for many countries around the world.  As a result, many people are suffering and in dire straits of basic needs.  Amid the fears and instability in our neighboring country like Haiti, it’s pretty evident. As we can see, without intervention, it is forcing hundreds, if not thousands of illegal migrants to risk theirs lives to reach our shores.
Years ago, political pundits were taken  back when the former premier stated that she cannot stop the illegal Haitian sloops from coming. Although, not politically correct, it has proven to be factual. Despite their tireless efforts, with some progress being made in recent months, which political party has yet to show they can?
For decades our country has dealt with illegal immigration, primarily Haitian and Dominican nationals and there seems to be no real solutions or end in sight.  Recently, many other nationalities are seizing on the opportunities and taking advantage of the loopholes in our immigration system and porous boarders.
I’m inclined to believe we literally have thousands of undocumented immigrants living in our country under the shadows, be it from undetected illegal boats coming ashore or persons who have overstayed their visas.
The recent voters list published by Tci Sun, which showed only 9,034 registered voters out of a population of approximately 45k, could be indicative of the magnitude of our illegal immigration problems.
Currently, there are ongoing discussions of enlarging our franchise through a legal framework with descendants of TCI. Looking at it through this prism, although noteworthy, we ought to be careful not to rush this initiative. In doing so, it could be consequential. In the interim, why not deal with the problem at hand?
In a small island nation like TCI, unchecked immigration could threaten the very fabric of our society in terms of our culture, the burden on our existing welfare system, etc.  What we need is zero tolerance for illegal immigration. Although we are advocates for human rights, our country has a rule of law that must be adhered too.
In order to properly enforce our current laws and bring about real change, the government will need to have stronger checks and balances in place, in addition to implementing more aggressive deterrent tactics.
Such as, a better tracking system for overstayed visas under the “Operation Guardian programme”.
-Imposing hefty fines for hiring illegals or aiding and abetting illegal entry.
-Housing enforcement of make-shift shacks erected on vacant properties, be it government or private.
-Investing heavily in border control and protecting our sovereign water ways.
-Increasing unannounced worksite immigration inspections, etc.
It’s unfortunate, but given the rapid decline of our indigenous population over the years and the construction boom, the country cannot continue to thrive and survive without foreign workers.  The reality is, our country does not have sufficient local labor force to meet the construction demands and the growing need for workers in the service industry.
The question is, at what point are we willing to accept this reality? I also believe there is a broader appetite by the public for the government to make some necessary amendments to our current immigration policies.  It’s evident, the British government who is ultimately responsible for our external security, is only spoon feeding us when we cry out.   I’m afraid, the road we are currently on, its putting the country in a very precarious position which will be difficult to rebound.
With that being said, there are other options the government should also consider to help mitigate the internal and external impending threats.  The first option: Whilst developing bilateral security partnerships is great, let’s ramp up the pressure on the British government to station their own coastguard ship in our waters on a semi-permanent basis. This will help to deal with the constant interceptions of illegal vessels and less reliance on the US and Bahamian Coastguard.
With our limited Marine resources, why are we processing hundreds of illegal migrants on our shores? Our system was not designed to house and support such levels of immigration.   The high cost of repatriation is draining our already strapped fiscal budget, which in turn creates other economic shortfalls for the country.
The second option: Consider passing an amnesty bill with a path to citizenship for those without criminal records who can prove they have entered the country prior to XYZ date.   For eligibility, such persons would have to provide some form of legal documentation, work history, passport and credible references.
Obviously, this will need to be a well thought out process and will require some kind of “Think Tank” committee to brainstorm this to see what the legal ramifications may be. It will also need to include our census bureau embarking on a countrywide effort for a more accurate headcount.
By doing this, we may accomplish a number of things, for one, it will decrease what I would characterize as the “slave labor pool” in our country. In addition, it will allow those who were once illegal to pay into our NHIB, NIB health and retirement system rather then draining it at our own expense.
“ The bottom line is, it’s a broken system and we cannot continue to kick the can down the road. If we operate the same way we will get the same results”.
As we have seen over the years, even though many of these voyages could be very treacherous, these migrants are undeterred by the seemingly odds of dying to get to TCI.
Therefore, it is futile to just sit back, complain and think it will magically go away. Because, at the end of the day, they are here, living and working among us undetected and have been for years. Something unprecedented must be done.
Illegal immigration is a matter that should concern all of us. Whether or not we choose to confront the problem, or just put a bandaid on it, it’s definitely something we need to tackle head on.
Ed Forbes,
Concerned citizen of Grand Turk 

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Caribbean News

Tenders Published for Credit Union, South Caicos Port, K-9 Unit and Public Sector Pay Raise 



By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 


#TurkandCaicos, March 24, 2023 – Contracts are now up for grabs as some long-awaited projects are poised to get started with funding allotted, and projects in need of companies to execute them; they include, the investigation into another pay increase for public servants, the new credit union, and development in South Caicos. 

A suite of tender documents was officially published earlier this year for upgrades including the South Caicos Port Dredging Project. 

The South Caicos Channel has not been properly maintained since it was initially constructed. The project aims to restore navigability to the port and increase the vessel, and barge sizes (tonnage capacity) with access to the port according to the government’s tender.

The TCIG says this is to reduce the costs of imports as the fully loaded barges reduce costs of goods and materials to residents, local businesses, and existing and future commercial development interests at South Caicos.

The Office of the Deputy Governor has also opened a tender to reassess payment for all public servants. 

A consultant is being sought to do a grading review for the entire sector of which the Deputy Governor is in charge.  The Government introduced a pay increase of 10 percent for public servants last year.  However, most of that was not cash in hand as it went to a new retirement fund. 

The tender follows the increase of the minimum wage in February, to 8 dollars an hour.

Next up is the new National Credit Union which the Ministry of Finance, Investment and Trade is hoping a consultant will step up to establish.  The Credit Union is aimed at expanding financing options for residents beyond commercial lenders. 

Customised vehicles are also being brought in for a brand-new K-9 unit at the Department of Customs. Late last year, K-9 Units were used at the nation’s ports and were successful in detecting and thwarting efforts to smuggle illicit drugs into the Turks and Caicos Islands. 

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