By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, March 15, 2023 – It’s time to reduce scholarships for the other disciplines and put that money towards training teachers. The decisive advice came from Dr. Carlton Mills, educational, professional, and cool author of the book ‘The Turks and Caicos: Our Island, Our Heritage,’ while he spoke at a recent expert panel on teacher retention in the Turks and Caicos organized by the Department of Education.
“I would go overboard and recommend that at least 60 or 70 percent of the funds allocated for scholarships be allocated for teacher training. We could put professions like the legal professions and some of the other areas on hold for a moment. Let’s make teacher education, a top priority,” he demanded. Mills said the reason for this was that we needed our local students to stay home instead of trying to recruit others.
“Yes, we have to think about retention, but we also have to think about continuity; we need to start recruiting locally, embarking on a serious local campaign to attract locals into the teacher education programs.” He maintained.
He was supported in his assessment by Lucille Wilson, educator and former Head of the Civil Service Association.
“We’re not anti-expat” she began, “But we have to look at the real truth. Some of them don’t come here to be retained, they’re on a contract. They’re looking to go somewhere else; they don’t want to live in the Caribbean, so how do we retain them?”
Wilson agreed that going local and convincing TCI students to stay home was the best bet.
“We have to seriously look at retaining young people who are here— I know we’re gonna have to bring in some, but the fact is we have to retain our own and until we come to that knowledge, our system will feel like it’s failing.”
Several things Wilson said the Government had to do to begin seriously retaining their own was to make teaching attractive for students because, ‘right now they didn’t even want to hear about it’. She recommended experience programs that put highschoolers in the classroom.
“See if you can convince 20 or 50 students for the year, we have 400 graduating each year,” she said. “See if we can get 100 of them into the classroom and it will increase their love for the profession. Bring the children in now,” she urged.
Also important to teacher retention, Mills said, was an incentive program for teachers, created back in 2006 and passed at Cabinet, then seemingly forgotten. The document which he had helped create, had comprehensively addressed succession planning; the classification levels of teachers; concessions for teachers; types of allowances; salaries; professional development; and more.
“The policy makers did not take it any further,” he said, holding up a copy.
“By now had they worked on this document and improved on it we probably would’ve had a proper incentives package for our teachers,” he added.
The Turks and Caicos has a continuing teacher retention problem that has affected both students and teachers negatively, piling on more pressure on the remaining educators and leaving students without teachers.
The expert panel was convened as part of the Education Week events, held March 6-10 in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
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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