By Shaniek Smith
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.
It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.
In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced. Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations. The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.
The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season. The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.
In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.
The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI. It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.
“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.
Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.
Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.
Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.
“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.
Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.
He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.
“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.
Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.
Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.
Ten Selected for the TCREA Real Estate Mentorship Program
#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – Since the official announcement of the Turks & Caicos Real Estate Association’s High School Mentorship Program, ten mentees have been selected for the inaugural group and will begin their journey on the road to embracing the fundamentals of the real estate field this month.
TCREA Ambassador and Director of the mentorship program, Mr. Trevor Musgrove, shared how pleased the committee was to have received thirty applications for the program, “We extended the opportunity to high schoolers and young college students aged 13-17. Initially, the invitation for applications was shared only with Providenciales students because of the logistical challenge to accommodate in-person sessions with sister island students, as all our committee members are based in Providenciales.
Luckily, once the Ministry of Education came on board and endorsed the program, Honourable Rachel Taylor immediately encouraged us to extend the mentorship opportunity to all islands, pledging her Ministry’s commitment to handling the necessary authorizations and cost to ensure successful applicants outside of Provo would be able travel here as needed,” said Musgrove.
The successful applicants and their respective schools are as follows:
· Clement Howell High – Dashawn Brooks, Alyssa Callum
· Raymond Gardiner High – Olique Stubbs, Lewis Walkin, Jr.
· Precious Treasures – Aniyah Bovie
· Maranatha Academy – Shamya Missick
· British West Indies Collegiate – Pavla Lalakova, Andino Parker
· Louise Garland Thomas High – Abnise Noel, Antoine Gedeon
Musgrove said they were pleased to have had applicants from North Caicos and were hopeful to have students from Grand Turk and South Caicos among the group, however no applications were received from those islands.
On Tuesday, May 10th the final group came together for a virtual meet-up and briefing, where they were formally introduced to the program’s mentors and were given an overview of what to expect in the coming months.
The teens will receive a monthly educational module over the next six months and will be provided 1-2 weeks to internalize the information. They will then enjoy a monthly in-person session with their mentors where they will put their real estate acumen to the test in interactive sessions, field trips, and more.
Program mentor Manfred Smith of Sotheby’s Turks & Caicos shared his elation for the program’s momentum thus far, “We are excited about providing this opportunity to introduce high school students to the real estate industry. From the initial feedback, the students are also very keen to learn, which makes it rewarding for all as we contribute to the development of tomorrow’s professionals.”
Smith says the program also demonstrates TCREA’s continued commitment as good corporate citizens in the rapidly growing country. The committee hopes that the mentees would grasp all that they can as they continue their educational pursuits.
The program’s Facebook page, @tcreamentors, is live and will document the group’s journey as they move through the program’s phases. Along with Musgrove and Smith, the community can get to know more about the other committee members: Blair MacPherson of REMAX; Nina Siegenthaler of Sotheby’s; Vernica Delancy and Dedra Gray of Keller Williams; and Sean O’neill, of The Agency through the social media page as well.
At the end of the program, the students will sit a mock real estate license exam and will enjoy a retreat for a fun and memorable close-out.
It is TCREA’s hope that this initiative will garner an interest and appreciation for the industry among high-schoolers and will act as springboard to the development of the next generation of local real estate professionals in these islands.
Education Defence mounted by Minister Rachel Taylor
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, May 18, 2022 – “Education is undeniably critical to our success as we continue or march towards nation building. Budgets are not merely arithmetic…but in a thousand ways go to the root of prosperity of individuals nation building begins with ensuring that there is a capable competent workforce to steer our country’s economic development,” said Rachel Taylor, TCI Minister of Education as she explained how the new Budget would benefit education and youth.
Taylor’s Ministry had come under fire from the Leader of the Opposition for not having enough support to students including textbooks and online resources.
The Education Minister revealed that $4.5 million has been budgeted to help with broken down infrastructure which includes the decades long flooding issue at H.J. Robinson High School (Grand Turk) which has been left neglected over several administrations. Taylor also talked up a new six classroom block for Louise Garland Thomas High (Long Bay) and a three classroom block for Clement Howell High school (Blue Hills).
An additional $1 million, she said has been budgeted to further upgrade infrastructure across schools. Additionally Taylor informed that schools are to receive upwards of $130, for specifically for 18 and other miscellaneous items.
For the upgrading of equipment and furniture $800,000, has been allotted to schools, beneficiaries include Raymond Gardiner High in North Caicos; Marjorie Basden High in South Caicos; Doris Robinson Primary in Middle Caicos and Enid Capron School in Five Cays.
Security in the primary schools and high schools has been issue and Government will finally address it. Minister Taylor, a former primary school principal announced $600,000 is earmarked for proper security contracts, bringing priority to safety of students in the public school sector.
In reply to the Leader of the Opposition, Edwin Astwood, Minister Taylor revealed that teachers in the Turks and Caicos government schools were being trained in several online areas including Kahoot Minecraft learning and others.
Taylor mentioned that the budget was an investment in the use of the Turks and Caicos’s and I’ll just see you but older persons who wish to better themselves as well.
Masks on for Students in TCI, Education extends face covering rule
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, May 14, 2022 – Mask mandates may have been dropped throughout the country but students will have to continue to mask up for classes for the foreseeable future.
Students will be made to keep their masks on until the end of the school year in July.
Another defence in the ongoing Coronaivurs Pandemic, is the Ministry of Health’s increasing push for child vaccinations against Covid-19.
Vaccines for children ages 6-11 are now available in the TCI, however uptake has been low.
The Education Ministry has not released any communication on precisely why the mask mandates are being extended for students but the decision comes following a rise in Covid-19 cases on the islands.
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