The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. Monday 19 October 2020—The crisis being faced by the higher education sector in the Caribbean brought regional Prime Ministers, Ministers, senior policy makers, representatives from the United Nations, international donor agencies and development banks together virtually on Wednesday, October 14, 2020. This pivotal meeting themed, “Investing in higher education to build more diversified and resilient post-COVID economies”, which drew over 100 participants was convened jointly with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) to put a spotlight on the urgent need for investment in the region’s higher education sector.
Among the outcomes at the high level meeting was a call from Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) for a multi-donor trust fund to invest 600 million US dollars over three years for the Caribbean’s human capital development and the establishment of a regional working group to work through the modalities for setting up this critical fund. Qualifying the proposal, he declared that the governments have been doing the best they can and thanked them for their steadfast support to The UWI for over seventy years, but with the economic contraction precipitated by the pandemic, the Caribbean’s higher education system is at risk of systemic decline unless there is urgent investment in the sector.
Wednesday’s virtual Forum was opened by Dr Stacy Richards-Kennedy, Director of the Office of Global Partnerships and Sustainable Futures at The UWI who outlined that the Caribbean Development Roundtable (CDR) and the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC) convened by ECLAC last month helped to set both the tone and trajectory for this development partner forum. She noted that the Caribbean is facing an “unimaginable conflation of crippling factors and forces” and that there is an urgent need for partnership and collaboration that will provide “tangible opportunities to uplift the millions of young people who are deserving of a higher education but may fall through the cracks opened up by the pandemic, if we fail to act decisively.” Dr Richards-Kennedy commended ECLAC for being swift in its response to support a focused discussion on higher education.
In his opening remarks, the Forum’s Chairperson, Premier and Minister of Finance of the British Virgin Islands, the Honourable Andrew Fahie, who also serves as a Vice Chair of the ECLAC Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee, acknowledged that critics may view the forum as another talk shop, but urged participants that it was an opportunity for things to be different. “I believe we have no choice but to work more closely as partners in the Caribbean to survive this crisis and go on to thrive in multiple economic sectors. I am very encouraged by the partnership already in action today by ECLAC and The UWI…they have brought us to this virtual table during this unprecedented moment in history. Let their partnership be an example to us as we go forward.”
The Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, in her feature address, thanked The UWI and ECLAC for bringing this critical discourse to fruition. She admitted it is not a normal discourse in the middle of a pandemic setting, saying “I don’t think that most persons across the world are looking at the stabilisation of investment in tertiary education.” She added, “Investment ought to be the prism in which we see our expenditure in education…and we must craft a new vision for education in general, inclusive of higher education.” She also emphasized that she was looking forward to seeing the discussions translated into policies that can influence decisions not just regionally, but through UN ECLAC internationally.
Following presentations by ECLAC, the IDB and World Bank, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who is also President of Universities Caribbean, Chairman of the Caribbean Examinations Council and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, underscored the importance for the ideas emanating from the discussion to migrate from academic discourse into “practical solutions of an emergency nature required right now to save the region.” Sir Hilary asserted that many individual universities have done well through strategic initiatives, self-help and assistance from development partners but unfortunately, in spite of their self-help culture and responsibility, external shocks have given a sharp blow to Caribbean economies and governments do not have the resources. He shared concern that the university sector is at risk of collapse given the dire current circumstances and called upon multilateral development partners, donor agencies and developed countries to help strengthen the resilience of the Caribbean through investment in human capital development with a special carve out for the higher education and research sector.
Responding to the Vice-Chancellor’s proposal, Chief of the ECLAC subregional headquarters for the Caribbean, Diane Quarless affirmed the importance of ensuring that the positive outcome of this dialogue among development partners results ultimately in durable support for tertiary education in the region through strategic action and resource mobilization. In this ECLAC resolved to remain engaged to explore with all partners a productive way forward.
Cruising should slow down says PAHO
By Dana Malcolm
‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.
“In the context of intense transmission, due to the Omicron variant as we have highlighted several times. It is just logical to suspend or at least limit the cruise ship traffic as an outbreak on board might end up exceedingly high and probably will go beyond the capacity of local health services”
Both the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos are experiencing a massive uptick in cases and several warnings regarding cruise travel have been issued by the US Centers for Disease Control.
Cruising just resumed for many regional countries this past Summer, Turks and Caicos was among the latest to restart on December 13.
A stop to sailing would be devastating to economies, however, ports of call like Grand Turk which are reeling with rocketing case numbers of COVID are urged to consider the suggestion of slowing down on ships by PAHO.
Cayman gets its second ‘Sir’; former Premier Alden McLaughlin knighted on Jan 1
By Dana Malcolm
#Cayman, January 20, 2022 – Former Premier of Cayman Alden McLaughlin was knighted at the start of 2022; named in the Queen’s New Year Honors List. He is only the second Caymanian to have ever received a knighthood from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Current Governor, Martyn Roper extended congratulations saying, “This is an outstanding personal achievement for former Premier McLaughlin, one of the most important and impactful political leaders in Cayman over the last 21 years. It is a significant moment for our islands. This historic award is only the second ever Knighthood to a Caymanian since the first in the 1990s. It is a strong signal of the respect in which Cayman is held and a visible demonstration of the progress Cayman has made as a vibrant democracy with strong good governance foundations.”
Sir McLaughlin, who is also now a QC attorney, served two terms as premier and had a career in politics that spanned 21 years. McLaughlin is known for his role in modernizing Cayman’s constitution.
Current premier G. Wayne Panton described the occasion as a unifying moment for the country saying, This is a day of celebration and great pride for all Caymanians as a son of our soil has been bestowed one of the highest honour. Today marks a new and most unique storyline in the history of the Cayman Islands. In considering the rarity and magnitude of this occasion, this is certainly a unifying moment for our community.”
Sir Alden McLaughlin, 60, was appointed as a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George on January 1, 2022.
Understanding Sargassum with help from the TCI’s Department of Environment & Coastal Resources
By Sherrica Thompson
#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – Sargassum, also known as seaweed, is a natural brown macroalga that lives in temperate and tropical oceans of the world. The floating micro eco-system is important to many species, including baby turtles, little crabs, and tiny fish. All these animals use the floating rafts of the sargassum for protection, shelter, and food.
Over the years, sargassum has been increasing its quantity in the Caribbean due to climate change. As water temperatures increase, sargassum blooms, and as this continues, it occurs in large amounts. This can be dangerous for some marine life because when seaweed washes up on the shore, some species become trapped in the sargassum mat.
“In the Turks and Caicos Islands, we have not seen the full severity of sargassum blooms. Our neighbours in Bonaire, for example, experience up to six feet of sargassum, and they have found stranded dolphins, sea turtles, and sometimes even birds,” said Amy Avenant.
“When the sargassum washes up on shore, it starts to decompose, and when it decomposes, it emits methane, and that is the stinky sulfuric eggy smell that you can smell when you walk past it on the beach. It is a bad thing for climate change because of the methane, but it is not harmful to your health.”
Turks and Caicos saw this in extreme amounts in October; so severe, resorts were forced to bag and bury the stinky seaweed which for over a week covered the usually sandy white stretch of Grace Bay beach.
Avenant noted that in the TCI, we have a balance between managing the influx of sargassum and impacting the areas where it lands because its influx is correlated to the cycles of the moon.
She also said sargassum can be used as a fertilizer in farming. If you collect it, the advice is to spread it out and ensure you wash the excess salt off before adding to your gardens or farms.
There are also hidden dangers and habitat threats to the piles of sargassum on shorelines.
Avenant informed, when you see sargassum on the beach, ensure you watch out for wildlife that might be stuck and species which might have made a home of the ocean’s deposit which has washed up, this is heightened on rocky shores.
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