By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, March 9, 2023 – A new campaign is exposing deeply personal stories on the issue of mental health and strengthens efforts to prove there is no shame in struggling with mental stability. Launched on February 27th, the “Dismantling Stigma” campaign from the Mental Health and Substance Dependence is geared at removing the shame surrounding mental health and getting residents to open up and seek care when they need it.
The campaign uses stories from well-known local islanders including; attorney, writer and filmmaker, Dominic Rolle; singer and TCHTA Entertainer of the year 2017 Crystal ‘Tess’ Charles and professional development trainer Latoya Jones who opened up about their own mental health challenges ranging from anxiety to depression and more. All are featured on billboards across the Providenciales International Airport.
Sponsored by the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association the push comes fresh off of the country opening its first mental health facility in Grand Turk.
The ministry says mental health stigma is one of the biggest barriers to mental health care and in shifting people’s perspectives about this they hope to have more people seeking help when they are struggling.
The campaign uses stories from well-known local islanders including; attorney, writer and filmmaker, Dom Rolle; singer and TCHTA Entertainer of the Year, Crystal ‘Tess’ Charles and professional development trainer, Latoya Jones who opened up about their own mental health challenges ranging from anxiety to depression and more.
All are featured on billboards, unveiled at the Providenciales International Airport. The massive displays share these stories, localizes the issue and bolsters the attempt to get islanders more comfortable with embracing that mental health challenges is nothing about which one must be ashamed or carry in isolation.
Increasingly, residents have expressed concern about the responses to individuals suffering mental health illness. In 2022, Garrick Tucker died despite a desperate online appeal by a Mother who wanted help with her troubled son. Hours later, he crashed in an allegedly stolen vehicle; that help coming too late in a case that even the Health Minister lamented was an avoidable tragedy.
Residents can see the posters sharing these local stories at the Airport, the Health Ministry says the campaign is expected to run throughout the year and ‘there are high expectations that its goal of dismantling mental health stigma will surely be achieved.’
TCI Special Needs Center Still Not Ready says Education Minister
#TurksandCaicos, September 11, 2023 – After promises of a September 2022 opening which was then pushed to January 2023 the Special Needs Centre for Providenciales is still unfinished leaving local students without that designated space as the school year begins.
Rachel Taylor, Minister of Education, made the revelation in a press conference on August 31st ahead of the opening of the new academic year.
Over $ 900,000 was set aside for infrastructural upgrades and another $1.3 million was budgeted for staffing and consultancy. That appears to be ongoing, however, as Taylor said the government anticipated being in possession of the consultant’s report by the end of 2023 prolonging the establishment of the centre.
The school, she had said, is expected to be developed at the former Abundant Life school buildings; now a year after missing its first deadline, the Special Needs Centre remains inexplicably unfinished.
The minister did not detail what caused the holdup in the press conference; and has not replied to questions to her Ministry in the aftermath of the press event to give a national report..
“All public schools now have a special needs teacher and in some instances two teachers for larger schools.”
So far a speech and learning pathologist has been hired but the search is still on for professionals to fill a laundry list of positions, from Director of the centre to autism specialized teachers and more.
Omitted though was information on whether the government had the capacity to house all the special needs students in need of care. In 2022 the government struggled to place a number of social needs students in public school because of a lack of space. Some parents were forced to place their children in private schools or outside of the country which meant additional expenses and emotional strains on these families.
Clement Howell High Home to First School Hydroponics System in Island’s ‘Let It Grow’ Programme to Promote Agricultural Education and Entrepreneurship
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos, September 9, 2023 — With a country’s capacity to grow its own food strongly aligned to its development and national security, the Sandals Foundation has joined the Ministry of Education and the Department of Agriculture on its food security programme, ‘Let It Grow’, which will see the establishment of farms at all public and private schools in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
On Tuesday, August 29, Government officials and private sector representatives joined administrators at the Clement Howell High School as they launched the first school hydroponics system that will provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge that will foster not only an interest in agriculture but position the sector as a feasible alternative career choice.
“The Department of Education within the Ministry of Education is embarking on a project that seeks to establish farms in all public and private schools,” said Minister of Education Hon. Rachel Taylor
“This interdisciplinary approach, Hon. Taylor continued, “will help students learn how to produce their food and care for animals through farming while considering business opportunities in the field of Agriculture Science. Students will learn how to become self- sufficient, self-reliant, and value team and collaborative work.”
Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at Sandals Foundation expressed delight at the newly established hydroponics system noting, “For the past few years, the Sandals Foundation has doubled down on its efforts to build the capacity of key community and educational organisations to grow more of their own food. This hydroponics system we hope will allow for more fresh fruits and vegetables for the school cafeteria while also having students learn new techniques while recognizing the value and reward of growing what they eat.”
Hydroponics farming technique provides for the growing of plants using a water-based nutrient solution rather than soil. The technology is especially advantageous in Turks and Caicos where soil types vary, significantly limiting produce output.
Shanta Seymour, Principal at the Clement Howell High School, says the hydroponics serve to lift the curriculum offering of the institution as Agricultural Sciences can be taught with a practical component. “We are grateful for the partnership from Sandals Foundation, the Beaches Turks and Caicos and the ministry of education. Public and private partnership within the educational landscape is inevitable and this event today is testament of the positive fruits that can be produced from this project which started with just a dream.”
The Clement Howell High hydroponics technology forms part of a wider investment of the Sandals Foundation-which includes the provision of irrigation systems, fertilizer, seed, soil and other agricultural input across 17 primary and high schools. The overall agricultural infrastructure is valued at some US $23,000 and was made possible through part support of the philanthropic organization’s partner – Coca Cola Latin America.
12 of the targeted 17 schools have already received support through Sandals Foundation including Thelma Lightbourne Primary, Shining Star Preparatory, and Louise Garland Thomas High School which all received irrigation systems; Iris Stubbs Primary and Marjorie Basden High schools which have received soil; and H.J. Robinson High, and Charles Hubert James Primary which have both received fertilizer.
Header: Elisann Delancy, from the Ministry of Education prepares to cut the ribbon for the opening of the hydroponic project while representatives from the Clement Howell High school, the Ministry of Education and the Sandals Foundation look on.
1st insert: Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke, shares an overview of the project and the Foundation’s involvement in the grand opening of the hydroponic system at the Clement Howell High School.
2nd insert: Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation Heidi Clarke (left) and Hon. Rachel Taylor (centre) give a listening ear to Ministry of Agriculture Extension Officer Mario Smith shares with them information on the plants within the hydroponic shade house.
Barbados to introduce school safety policy come September
#Barbados, August 29, 2023 – Barbados is enhancing the safety of students with the introduction of a comprehensive national schools’ safety policy in September, which will address safety, security and wellness concerns in schools throughout the island.
The policy is built upon four pillars namely safety, security, health, and ongoing maintenance, according to Joy Adamson, Deputy Chief Education Officer.
Adamson highlighted that efforts are being made to see the success of the policy, that is, active collaboration by the Ministry with stakeholders including unions, principal associations, the police and the fire service.
She referred to the stakeholders’ involvement saying, “the School Safety Policy is expected to generate a greater sense of awareness among our stakeholders, so that we clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of each…[and] create that safe school environment.”
She later emphasized the importance of having safety embedded into the education system, being a part of the system rather than just a detached factor, incorporated from time to time.
Safety is a full-time job and not a part-time practice,” she maintained.
She pointed out that they wanted to engender a community approach to safety and further create and develop a culture of drills at the nursery, primary and secondary levels.
A part of the policy is fire safety which is seen as a vital aspect, especially in light of the Mahdia school fire in Guyana, that claimed 19 lives, just a few months ago.
Considering this, Adamson recognized and applauded the work of the Barbados Fire Service, for their efforts in extending the Fire Cadet Program which she expressed compliments the ministry’s comprehensive safety agenda.
Additionally, she informed that schools have created and implemented School Safety Plan which includes a Fire Safety Plan.
She stated that “These plans require the schools to conduct regular fire drills, have well-maintained fire alarm systems and to keep exits clear,” adding that they “will be renewed annually by the schools’ Health and Safety Committee.”
The Deputy Chief continued to pinpoint the link between having a safe environment and effective learning as this is the aim of the Ministry’s efforts.
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