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Burgers, Peacocks & Surpluses

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Editor

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 11, 2022 – Yesterday, I was seated in a room of thirty travel agents, one of the companies is among the top five in the world for vacation bookings, and it was a rousing reminder that these are the individuals who are making direct contact with the 1.5 million (plus) travellers who are choosing Turks and Caicos for their Caribbean holidays.

The men and women who sensibly lapped up the loving attention from Team Beaches Resort, were being personally thanked by Gary Sadler, 37-year executive and Vice President of Unique Vacations, a subsidiary of Sandals Resorts International.  It was Global Travel Advisor Day and it meant much to be in the room during a season when travel and tourism have roared back to life following a life-sucking pandemic period.

The individuals, I learned are directly responsible for keeping Beaches Resort Villages & Spa, which accounts for over 70 per cent of long stay visitors to the British overseas territory at well over 90 per cent full for at least the past ten weeks.

It again hit me in the gut; essentially the undeniable popularity of the Turks and Caicos Islands has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the people that want to come, the people who book their holidays and the people who work at the properties where these guests stay and play.

It’s a people thing.

In my 14 years here as a working journalist, I have not yet met a Travel Agent who told me that when a guest sought them out for a Turks and Caicos Islands vacation, they enquired on whether the Progressive National Party or the People’s Democratic Movement were in governing power.

Instead, it’s what they’ve seen on social or traditional media, you know those jaw dropping vistas fabulously framed by luxury resorts; hues of blues and turquoise in our dynamic slice of the Atlantic Ocean and the pristine wonders endemic to the Turks and Caicos which have lured them here.  For most islanders, that remarkable beauty is attributed to no political party, it is a credit laid solely at the feet of a very good, masterfully creative heavenly God.

Bottom line, no matter who was the vote leader in the February 2021 General Election, this tourism revival would have belonged to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Underpinning my observation as a point of fact and not of fiction is the ongoing National Budget Debate.  The general public is subject to a concerning and revealing peacock parade in the House of Assembly.

On the one side, there is the elected government administration – the PNP – which is happily patting itself on the back for the economic buoyancy in the Turks and Caicos.  Sharing a lot of strides it counts as its own, but which are largely linked to foreign owned companies, professionals or interests in tourism and real estate – who do their own marketing and managing.

On the other side, there is the elected opposition which is happily unimpressed by the fiscal plan laid in parliament; a plan it says remains out of synch with the souls of the people because the average person is still hard pressed to ‘feel’ the financial boom.

The twist? Both political sides are right.  If I had a $20 million dollar surplus and boosted the budget by $78 million dollars; I would brag my butt off too.

If I reviewed this Budget and noticed that savings were swelling while people were hurting and public sector pay increases and tax breaks were a mirage, I would also blast it to pieces.

So the country, at least the electorate is saddled with the reality that we could be simply flipping a burger.  So what happens when both sides are well done?

Do we eat and then… well you know.  Or do we keep flipping until the meat patty is so badly burned, that it is unfit for consumption?

Last year, when the former Sharlene-Robinson led administration was shown or at the very least appeared to be prepared to allow over $12M in stimulus money to go back to the piggy bank, the new Government cried shame and did swift work to more easily and equitably distribute the resources.  This year, the same PNP Government who cried foul had the audacity to announce that $20M would be returned to the piggy bank when life on the planet has never been so expensive and people are struggling.

Now, another banner year for tourism and real estate is predicted.  The country’s economic rating is poised for an upgrade and cash reserves will be healthy.  All refreshing, heartening news.

But can a political party take the credit for the robust economy?  And is there a political party truly prepared to ensure that there is no blockage when it comes to the overflow of prosperity?

Only time will tell.  But God knows, we’re on the third flip (since the end of UK Direct Rule) and I am tired of eating surpluses… ah, I mean; hamburgers.

News

TCI Census Contests Results coming soon

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, November 30, 2022 – After the revelation that the 2022 National Census had to be put on the back burner because of gang violence, the Department of Statistics is reassuring residents that the competitions held in relation to the census have already been judged and results will be announced soon. 

In a follow up to a Magnetic Media report of Tuesday November 29, we spoke to Shirlen Forbes, who heads the Department of Statistics.  Mr. Forbes explained that the logo, slogan and tagline contests for the census already had their winners.

Prizes for the logo competition ranged from $400 to $1000.The slogan competition open to high school and TCICC students only had prices ranging from $150-$400 and the tagline contest start up to $350 in prizes up for grabs for primary school students in the TCI.

If the reduction in crime holds steady, Forbes said the Census is expected to resume work in January 2023.

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Caribbean News

National Innovator of the Year Passionate about Technology in Education

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#Jamaica, November 30, 2022 – Educational Technologist, Davia Bryan-Campbell, is the 2022 National Innovator of the Year.

She copped the award for her creation, ‘EduHub Teach’, a platform that enables teachers to access and share resources with each other.

Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Hon. Daryl Vaz, presented Mrs. Bryan-Campbell with her award during a recent ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

Mrs. Bryan-Campbell, who is also a trained teacher, is Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of EduHub Company Limited.

Though she says the win was surprising, it was not by chance that her longstanding passion for technology in education has translated into a potentially life-changing innovation.

“I am passionate about information and communications technology (ICT), but I am more passionate about the collaboration between ICT and education. My love is really ‘ed-tech’… not just ICT but technology in education,” she tells JIS News.

Mrs. Bryan-Campbell points out that one of her greatest challenges is that in addition to focusing on the students, she and other teachers had lesson plans, worksheets, projects, PowerPoint presentations, and other administrative engagements to undertake, describing these as overwhelming.

“EduHub Teach was, therefore, designed out of the need to provide greater support to educators across the island, where they can become a part of an online community, [and] where they can collaborate and discover curriculum-specific resources,” she informs.

Mrs. Bryan-Campbell is hopeful that the platform will improve the overall education system, as it enables teachers to focus on “what really matters, which is the students and their learning outcomes”, and reduce their workload.

The talented innovator, who hails from Clarendon, says her interest in ICT became “very pronounced” whilst a student at Edwin Allen High School in the parish.

By the time she matriculated to the Shortwood Teachers’ College in St. Andrew, Mrs. Bryan-Campbell had embraced this interest fully, finding ways to infuse ICT in her lesson plans and instructional delivery to her students.

“When I moved on to [work at] St. George’s College, I used ICT to develop my lessons. I would always use the [audio-visual] AV room, ensuring that ICT was a critical part of teaching and learning,” she highlights.

The innovator also worked with e-Learning Jamaica Limited as a Project Implementation Officer, Training Officer, Training Manager, and Project Manager.  Her attendant engagements allowed her to contribute to national ICT-related programmes, such as the ‘Tablets in Schools’ and ‘Tablets for Teachers’ initiatives.

She holds a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of South Wales, a Bachelor’s degree in Guidance and Counselling from the Jamaica Theological Seminary, and several certificates in ICT, Instructional Design and Project Management.

A total of 37 entries were received across several categories for this year’s National Innovation Awards.

Chief Adjudicator, Professor Ronald Young, who delivered the judges’ report, pointed out that the submissions were required to have practically demonstrable functionality, perform a function that makes life easier and/or improve the quality of life, display creativity and demonstrate the economic use of materials that are available locally or are indigenous to Jamaica.

This, in addition to being original or a unique adaptation of existing gadgets, equipment, concepts, processes, products or services, with social or economic benefit and realising or at least having the potential for commercialisation while being safe for use and environmentally friendly.

The awards are presented biennially. However, it was last held in 2018, due to the COVID-19 pandemic which cancelled the 2020 staging.

 

BY: MICKELLA ANDERSON

JIS News

Caption: Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Hon. Daryl Vaz (left), presents Chief Executive Officer/Founder of EduHub Company Limited, Davia Bryan-Campbell, with the 2022 National Innovator of the Year award during a recent ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

Yhomo Hutchinson Photo

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Crime

Study reveals Online Sexual Exploitation of Children rose in Pandemic; Philippines among the worst

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

A recent study from UNICEF and investigation by the BBC have revealed horrific levels of child abuse in the Philippines fueled by pandemic lockdowns and increasing poverty. The study  revealed that country has become a den for Online sexual exploitation and abuse of children (OSEAC) in which adults sometimes even parents force children to perform sexual acts on camera for paying pedophiles on the internet.

A key finding of the study was that certain cultural beliefs contribute to the spread of OSAEC such as ‘if the children are untouched, they are not harmed’ and ‘OSAEC provides easy money and almost everyone does it.’

The BBC’s Laura Bicker visited Preda, an orphanage in the country that specifically helps abused children. Located in the orphanage is a dark padded room outfitted with an on hand therapist. Bicker described what she saw and heard.

“Some of the toughest healing at Preda happens inside a dark room with soft music playing in the background. There are large pads on the walls and floors – the kind gymnasts would use for a soft landing. The only light comes from the open door. About five children are kneeling, each in their own space.  Most of them are facing the wall. The overwhelming sound is the erratic thud of their fists and feet as they pummel the pads. The first raw, anguished cries make your heart stop. And then it starts again, but it’s difficult to keep listening, even from a distance, even for a few minutes. The questions hurled at the cushioned walls – “Why did you do this to me? Why me? What did I do?”

The situation is becoming increasingly dire.

Only around 20 per cent of Filipino children are listed by UNICEF as not vulnerable to online sexual exploitation and the pandemic has made it worse. UNICEF says a good grasp of the English Language, availability and ease of access to technology, well-established financial transaction facilities, and ‘absence of perceived conflict between sexual exploitation and significant social norms are some of the reasons the gruesome industry is allowed to thrive and expand.

While instances of online abuse may not be as prevalent in the Caribbean instances of sexual abuse are still high.  A recent study revealed that nearly 15 per cent of children aged 11–12 years and, 35 per cent of young people, 14–15 years old reported having had sexual experiences. Since the onset of the pandemic in 2019 those numbers have spiked.

In  Jamaica alone pediatricians said cases abuse rose 70 per cent during the pandemic but cases reported to the police dropped significantly indicating extreme underreporting.

Sexual crimes are some of the most underreported crimes in the world for various reasons including fear, coercion and shame. Protection of children from sexual abuse in all its forms must then become a community effort with adults taking on the responsibility of investigating and speaking up on behalf of children who may not be able to do so on their own.

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