MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS AND SPORTS
HONOURABLE MYRON V. WALWYN,
ON TENTH UPDATE ON THE WORKS OF THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
SINCE THE PASSAGE OF HURRICANES IRMA AND MARIA.
I am Myron V. Walwyn, Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports and it is indeed my pleasure to bring to you today my tenth update on the works of the Ministry of Education since the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
As a Ministry and indeed as a Territory, we continue to make significant strides in our recovery in the almost five months following the passage of the hurricanes. This, as you are well aware, has not been without its challenges, particularly since we continue to experience unfavorable weather patterns up to this point. I want to assure you that the Government of the Virgin Islands remains committed to putting this country back on a path to prosperity and the education system plays an indispensable role in all of this.
As you are aware, during the last sitting of the House of Assembly, a loan in the amount of 65 million dollars from the Caribbean Development Bank was approved. This money is intended to be used as part of the recovery efforts in the Territory. Of the 65 mil USD approved, 8.75 million dollars has been allocated to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports.
We intend to use the funds in the following manner:
School rehabilitation, which will see further improvements being made to the schools that were deemed usable following the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. These include: Willard Wheatley Primary, Francis Lettsome Primary, Joyce Samuel Primary, Alexandrina Maduro Primary, Althea Scatliffe Primary, Ebenezer Thomas Primary, Bregado Flax Educational Centre Primary Division and the Claudia Creque Educational Centre.
School redevelopment- which will see funds being used to reconstruct schools that were deemed unusable or severely damaged. These schools include: Isabella Morris Primary, Ivan Dawson Primary, Leonora Delville Primary, Bregado Flax Educational Centre Secondary Division and the old campus of the Elmore Stoutt High School.
Funds have also been allocated to the rebuilding of the Eslyn Henley-Richiez Learning Centre. Currently, these students are being accommodated at the Althea Scatlife Primary School and at the Ministry, we are eager to get the students back into a facility that better caters to them.From the funds allocated, we will see an increase in school supplies in all schools across the territory. This will include much needed school furniture for both teachers and students and an increase in school equipment to create a better environment that will enhance the teaching and learning process.
Many of our recreational facilities were also damaged in the hurricanes. We have already deployed individuals to assess the cost of repairs to the various facilities and we are expected to commence work on them very soon. Some of our other facilities that received extensive damage, such as the gym in Belle Vuewill be addressed when more funds become available.
Funds have also been allocated to continue on our quest to fully integrate technology into the teaching and learning process. These funds will be used to ensure that we have improved internet access, digital textbooks for the incoming Grade 7 students, replace Smart Boards that were destroyed during the hurricane and improve computer labs that were destroyed.
It is important to note here that out of the destruction of our schools, a new model for schools in the Virgin Islands is being developed, of which ICT and green technology are apart.
Through a donation from UNICEF, several of our schools continue to receive mold remediation to improve the overall quality of the institutions
The technical team at my Ministry has met with the various organisations that are assisting us in rebuilding our schools in an effort to create a cohesive look amongst all schools within the Territory. By doing this, all students and teachers in public schools will have access to the same amenities - ultimately creating the same standard at all institutions.
The Elmore Stoutt High School on Tortola is still utilising the shift system that was implemented following the hurricanes. We know that this is not the most ideal situation for our students, so we are working expeditiously to have remedial works done to the L-shaped building on the ESHS campus. The Ministry is in the process of tendering for work to begin and once this is completed, senior students of ESHS will be housed at the main campus, while the junior students remain at the Old Clarence Thomas Limited building, which will allow students to return to a full school day. I know that this matter is very important to parents and I want to assure you that we are doing our utmost to get this matter sorted.
On Virgin Gorda, we had a site visit at the Bregado Flax Educational Centre Secondary Division 3 weeks ago with the engineers and other developers who are working to decide the best way forward for a more structurally sound building. Once we receive those drawings and have received the necessary approvals, we intend to proceed with replacing the roof at this institution.
We should receive the final draft of the new Robinson O’Neal Memorial Primary School any day. Once we have received the final draft we will be meeting with the stakeholders of the institution for their consideration. I cannot express enough my gratitude to Oil Nut Bay for the stellar work that they have done thus far in this process. I must also thank Pastor D’Abreau who has been kind in allowing us to carry on school for the Robinson O’Neal Primary School at the Assembly of God Cornerstone Primary School location.
Contracts have been signed and remedial works will begin shortly on the Leonora Delville Primary School to house the primary students on the western end of the island. I would like to thank the teachers, parents, and students of the Leonora Delville Primary School, Isabella Morris Primary, and Ivan Dawson Primary School for their patience and assistance during this time. The teaching and learning environment at the Leonora Delville Primary School gets very difficult and I want to assure all stakeholders that we are aware of this and we are working assiduously to improve the situation.
In addition to being one of the schools that will benefit from the school redevelopment allocation in the CDB loan, we were fortunate enough to meet with the organisation All Hands and Hearts that will be working with us to get the Ivan Dawson Primary School functioning again. They will be assisting us with roof repairs and a team of engineers will be joining our team to see how we can address the flooding that has been plaguing that school for quite a while. At the Ministry we have made several attempts over the years to address this problem with only short term success immediately after the works have been completed. We hope that with the assistance of this organisation and other organisations that have technically skilled persons we will be able to address this problem once and for all.
As many of you may be aware, two weeks ago the plans for the new Enis Adams Primary School were presented to stakeholders of the institution for their input on the proposed development and plans are moving swiftly ahead to have the school ready for the start of the 2019 school year. We would again like to thank Mr Peter Haycraft and his team for his generous donation to this school.
As we speak, on Jost Van Dyke, new classrooms are being built to create a more comfortable environment for the students at this institution. We are simultaneously working with the company Blue Ocean who are assisting us with the building of the classrooms and have also agreed in principle to rebuild a new school on Jost Van Dyke at a different location. Currently, discussions are being had on the designs of the school, of course in keeping with the new model for schools that we have developed at the Ministry. Very soon these plans will be brought to the community of Jost Van Dyke for their consideration.
While we work to improve the physical plans and the infrastructure of our schools throughout the Territory, it is even more important for us to continue to work to improve the quality of instructions in our classrooms. The better trained and qualified our educators become, the more improved the learning outcomes of our students will be. As you aware, we embarked on a licensure programme for our principals and we had our first cohort graduate a year ago. There will be a second cohort of principals that will be licensed by the second quarter of this year after successful completion of their courses with the National College of Educational Leadership in Jamaica. It was also the vision of the Ministry to license our teachers and we will be embarking on this this year.
At the H Lavity Stoutt Community College, a Director of Recovery has been appointed and that person is responsible for dealing with all matters that are deemed pertinent to the recovery of the institution following the damages of the hurricane.
I charged the H Lavity Stoutt College to take advantage of the opportunities that the disasters presented. They were asked to develop technical and vocational courses that will support the rebuilding of homes in the Territory. Once again I would like to thank them very much for accepting their challenge in getting things done. The introduction of construction courses at the college saw students receiving instruction in:
- basic roof installation and repair
- installation of doors and windows
- construction and repair overview
- generator maintenance and repairmanaging construction projects
- basic construction
- basic electricity
- basic plumbing
The first cohort of students have already completed the courses. The second session of these classes will take place from February 5th to March 2nd, and the third session will take place from March 5th to April 4th.
The MInistry’s Youth Employment Services Programme has forged a relationship with the college to secure job opportunities for those persons that would have completed the construction courses. These individuals will receive job opportunities through the Ministry’s Apprenticeship Programme where we will pay a stipend to these apprentices from funds that have been allocated to the programme. I want to encourage our young people to see this as as an opportunity to acquire skills in the relevant technical areas and not focus on the money that will be made. The money will come once when your skills have been developed.
We are asking persons that would have been a part of the first cohort of persons to complete the construction courses to contact the Youth Employment Services Coordinator, Rochelle Lawrence at 499-9944 or firstname.lastname@example.org to be linked with a contractor.
Additionally, my ministry has adopted a policy that any contract given for works under our ministry will require the contractor to employ one or more of the persons who were enrolled in the construction courses at the college to work along with them. This again will ensure that we continue the work to develop the technical and vocational skills of our people. I was very pleased when the Minister for Communications and Works also agreed to do a similar thing with the programme in his ministry.
We were able to start the much anticipated work on the rehabilitation of Her Majesty’s Prison in BalsumGhut. We expect this work to be completed very soon so that our prisoners can return to the Territory from St Lucia. Phase 1 of the work, which is being funded by my Ministry is near completion and phase 2, which is being done by a team through the Governor’s office is expected to commence soon.
As we move towards the redevelopment of the Virgin Islands, it is imperative that we continue to work together as a means to make further enhancements on our journey towards recovery. I wish to take this time to once again thank the many persons that have assisted the Ministry of Education and Culture, whether it be through monetary donations or in-kind, we truly appreciate your contribution. Moving forward, we will continue to do our best to ensure that our young people are provided with the best educational opportunities possible as the future of this Territory lies in the hands of these great minds. May God continue to bless you all and these Virgin Islands.