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Education

Ministry fails, no school again for Grand Turk Special Needs children

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, September 16, 2022 – Special needs children in Grand Turk will not be starting the new school year with other students; once again the Government has failed to ensure educational opportunities for all children.

Parents of special needs students set to start at the Ona Glinton Primary school in Grand Turk were again disappointed when nearly a week after school was supposed to start, they were told a staff shortage means their children will not be able to be accommodated.  It is a disturbing repeat of previous years and a heartbreaking reality as the Ministry of Education has failed to get the desperately needed program off the ground.

On July 8 this year during a press conference to address the special needs situation, Minister of Education Rachel Taylor said: “We are at a critical turning point in our country and our special-needs community will not be left behind, you are at the forefront of our plans and programs, my government and I will ensure that you have all you need to progress.  No effort will be spared in ensuring that the needs, infrastructure and programs are in place to fill the gaps.”

Yet, on Sunday afternoon parents were advised by school officials of the vacancies and told they would be informed as soon as the staff need was filled. Only then would their children be able to enter school.

It leaves special needs children in limbo and parents and the community angered.

As neuro-typical students advance, their special needs children remain behind, not due to a lack of ability or compliance with the law which demands children over four years be registered in a school; but due to the inadequate response by successive governments.

In the press conference, Minister Taylor had said that the ministry had hired more special-needs teachers to deal with the growing population.

“We have on boarded additional special-needs teachers across the Turks and Caicos Islands so they can deal with the challenges. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need that special needs school and as a ministry we will deliver on that promise.” she said.

We now know based on a more recent back to school press conference it will take at least three more months for that school to open and it will open in phases instead of at full capacity.  We also learned as many as 15 teachers quit TCIG abruptly leaving a public education in a lurch.

And while the government is giving a big pitch on the establishment of that special needs centre, sustainability may be an issue as the initial class size will be tiny; an admission from the Education Director Edgar Howell.

“It is the government’s remit to make sure that services are provided for all of our children. This means plans are afoot to create a special needs center that all of our children whether diagnosed or not. We will start with a small group of students and then build out our capacity,” said Howell.

Permanent Secretary Wesley Clerveaux and Special Needs Officer Jas Walkin both admitted that the Ministry was aware prior to the press conference and prior to the summer that there were not enough teachers for all special-needs students on the island. Yet appropriate steps have still not been taken and notices have come so very late.

It leaves parents now scrambling to implement an alternate plan for their children, who are being left behind by their peers in the same age group.

One resident in an open letter stated, “It does not seem to be a real concern for the public servants who swore on the Bible to serve the Turks and Caicos Islands— A shortage of staff may have created a shortage of services in the school system but it is abundantly clear that special needs are surely not being given priority.”

There have been reports in Providenciales as well of children being turned away from public schools having to enter the private system to give their children a chance at an education.

Every year the inability to register hundreds of students, complete refurbishment of schools and fill teacher gaps rears its ugly head. Residents express outrage as millions of dollars in surplus is celebrated while basic constitutional rights are sidelined and underserved.

Education

Semi-Finals of Nat’l Tourism Debate Competition Showcases Insightful Perspectives

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The National Tourism Debate Competition reached an enthralling climax as four top high schools competed in the semi-finals, competing for coveted spots in the finals. The collaborative effort led by the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, and Social Services in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, received invaluable support from the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association and the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College (TCICC), along with the Edward C. Gartland Youth Center.    

In the first debate, Clement Howell High School and Precious Treasures engaged in a compelling exchange of ideas, deliberating the motion, “This house believes that Human Resource Managers within the accommodations sector should be reserved for Turks and Caicos Islanders.” The thought-provoking discourse showcased the students’ depth of understanding of the topic.

 The second debate saw Maranatha Academy and A. Louise Garland High School passionately debate the motion, “This house believes that all-inclusive resorts are not as beneficial as perceived to the local economy of the Turks and Caicos Islands and no new licenses should be issued.” The students’ insightful perspectives and comprehensive analysis of the impact of all-inclusive resorts on the local economy left judges with a challenging task in determining the finalists.

 The esteemed judge panel included Michelle Hosten, Head of Tourism Faculty, TCICC, Stacey-Ann W. Albert, TCHTA and Dr. Barbara Ambrister, Chairperson – TCICC. After deliberation Precious Treasures and Maranatha Academy emerged as finalists, having showcased exceptional,  intellectual insight of the complex issues within tourism. Mr. Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education chaired the event and Mr. Brian Been, Tourism Policy Manager was time keeper.

 Dr. Barbara Ambrister, Chief Judge, commended the debaters for their preparation, research, and engagement, stating, “The semi-final debates were a testament to the students’ dedication and passion for exploring critical issues within the tourism industry. Their intellectual rigor, and eloquence were truly commendable, setting the stage for an exhilarating final showdown.”

 The Hon. Josephine Connolly, Minister of Tourism applauded the students’ understanding and desire to addressing vital issues within the tourism industry. “The semi-final debates showcased their exceptional talent and knowledge and their passion goes well for our islands’ future.”

 The Hon. Rachel Taylor, Minister of Education, lauded the participants for their exemplary performance and the organizers for event excellence. “The semi-final debates were a testament to the students’ critical thinking skills and their ability to articulate well-researched arguments. I am confident that the finalists will continue to elevate the level of discourse in the final round.”

 As the competition advances to the finals, the excitement continues to build as Precious Treasures and Maranatha Academy prepare to engage in a battle of intellect and persuasion.

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Education

TCI Community College gets New Vice Presidents

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Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

#TurksandCaicosIslands, February 14, 2024 – Three new vice presidents have been on-boarded at the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College as the institution continues upgrading its services with the end goal of transitioning to a University. 

Guided by the 2022 review of the College, the transition in leadership structure was welcomed by the government and college officials. 

“Traditionally TCICC operated under a leadership structure that remained largely unchanged since its establishment 29 years ago. It meant a lack of distributed leadership and potential over-reliance on a single individual, ”said Dr Candice Williams, TCICC President.

She maintained that the new executive team was well-placed to spearhead TCICC’s ongoing transition. The new Vice Presidents are: 

Dr Delores Stapleton-Harris, Vice President of Academic Vocational and Student Services;

Dr. Shaun McKay, Vice President of Administration and Operation; and

Deranica Allen Williams, Vice President of Finance;

“This is part of a phased approach to transform the college into a university paving the way to an even brighter future– providing an excellent education requires an excellent organization with excellent leadership,” emphasized Rachel Taylor, Minister of Education.

Each employee was afforded an opportunity to speak during the event.

Stapleton-Harris, who holds numerous International Organization for Standardization, ISO certifications, and degrees in higher education leadership and policy said she, was humbled by the trust placed in her. 

“I am firmly committed to advancing TCICC and its rebranding efforts to position it as the institution of first choice for education. We will endeavour to provide [students]  with a rich and inclusive academic environment–” she continued “I am strongly committed to working with faculty staff and industry providers to ensure our students are equipped with the knowledge skills and equipment they need to succeed in their chosen career.”

McKay who is trained in Community College Leadership, and Business Management gave a message of unity and advancement.

“We will embark upon demanding directions up on each of us as vice presidents,” he said. “Through education comes economic empowerment, which means something different to everyone, but in the Turks and Caicos I want that to mean that we are the number one choice globally, regionally, and internationally.”

Allen-Williams told the gathered stakeholders and media she was committed to the prudent stewardship of resources. Focusing on compliance, maintenance, and improvement of finances. 

“My goal is to enhance the financial stability of the college while implementing judicious fiscal practices that enable us to advance while remaining financially sustainable.”

The new positions, revealed via a press conference on January 30th, were legalised by an early  2024 amendment to the ordinance governing the Institution. 

It moves the college away from the principal to deputy principal chain of leadership. Instead, the President will be supported by a total of four vice presidents.

The TCICC is also attempting to get accredited, “A significant achievement in our pursuit of excellence is the college’s approval to commence for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC),” Taylor revealed. 

The Minister maintained this, along with ISO certification, was a crucial step in maintaining the quality of Education at TCICC.

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Caribbean News

Canadian Semester for TCI Community College

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Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer 

 

#TurksandCaicos#Canada, February 14th, 2024 – Following a tour of nine Canadian Colleges the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College has secured partnerships that will allow its students to take semesters abroad. #TurksandCaicos#Canada

 

“We have established partnerships with the College of the Rockies, Nova Scotia Community College and New Brunswick Community College to support faculty mobility and student exchange programs,” said Candice Williams, President of the TCICC.  

 

Williams explained that the deals had been struck on a collaborative mission tour, fully sponsored by Global Affairs Canada. The exchange program will be funded through the Emerging Leaders of the Americas Program (ELAP).

 

“Once selected, eligible students will have the opportunity to attend the chosen Canadian institution for a semester,” Williams said.

 

For years the Turks and Caicos has struggled with its students choosing to be schooled overseas and eventually settling there, expanding the diaspora but contributing to worker shortages at home. 

 

TCICC has a mandate to make sure the college is the first choice locally, regionally and globally for students.  Now the institution is providing an overseas experience that allows residents to study abroad but return home promptly.

 

ELAP is a program sponsored by the government of Canada which aims to ‘support the development of human capital and the next generation of leaders in the Americas while strengthening the linkages between post-secondary institutions in Canada and the Americas.’ 

 

The Turks and Caicos is an eligible country, and having now secured student exchange partnerships that waive tuition, as required by the Canadian government, successful applicants will be flown to Canada for four months.

 

 An $8,200 CA grant will be awarded to participants according to the Canadian government website to help with their expenses. 

 

Williams announced that the administration was also laying the foundation to introduce four year administration courses and nursing courses. 

 

“This strategic initiative reflects our commitment to expanding educational opportunities,” she promised. 

 

Williams was speaking at a January 30th press conference to announce changes to the executive leadership of the college.

 

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