Minister of Education, Dr the Honourable Tim Gopeesingh
July 27, 2012:
A very pleasant good morning to one and all and let me express my heartfelt pleasure to share in today’s celebrations, especially since they seek to honour some of our young, brilliant and promising citizens who attained tremendous success in this year’s SEA exams, and who, more than some, need these scholarships to help them fund their secondary school expenses.
I have often said and today, it bears repeating, that when any organisation gives back of its time, resources and expertise to any individual in our country, it is an act of nobility, but when said organisation gives to our children, it becomes an even more noble act of patriotism.
The Unit Trust Corporation is truly to be hailed as patriots, for having dedicatedly and diligently given these scholarships to the less privileged children of our nation for the past 16 years, and I wish to express today, on behalf of the citizens, parents, Ministry of Education and Government, and indeed on my own behalf, my heartfelt gratitude to them for this commitment to the development of our young children, and thus, an investment in our country’s economic and social future.
The 10 students who are receiving these scholarships today will receive, for the next seven years of their secondary school lives, $1,200 per year, which totals $8,400 per student for the stipulated period.
This very noble programme was established with the primary aim, I am told, to help our youth who have tremendous academic potential but are affected by impoverished or financially stricken circumstances.
To qualify for the scholarship, the principals of the respective schools must firstly nominate the student and secondly, their family must either receive public assistance from the state or earn under $3,000 per month.
The scholarships are then awarded based on recommendations from the principals throughout Trinidad and Tobago and the student’s performance in SEA examinations, while, in adhering to transparency, the UTC also conducts interviews at the homes of perspective students to determine their living conditions and need for financial assistance.
I am told that this year’s Scholarship winners bring the number of students who have participated in the Unit Trust Corporation’s SEA Scholarship Programme to ninety-two (92) since its inception. However, it must be noted that fifty-two (52) students are in the programme at present, inclusive of the ten recipients for 2012.
I am especially pleased to note that five years ago, the UTC introduced a two-day program “Strategies 4 Success” facilitated by Mr. Lyndon Mitchell, a School Psychologist and his team, and to date, participants are now engaged in a five-day programme that culminates with an awards ceremony.
A six-year curriculum has also been developed that takes into consideration the students’ age and stage in the developmental process, all of which aims at fostering among the student participants the foundational skills needed for new entrants into secondary school including time management, developing and maintaining healthy friendships, developing an awareness of their physical and emotional selves, decision making/problem solving, managing relationships with authority figures and setting meaningful goals.
The programme also imparts on students life skills such as self preservation, career planning and leadership, while it also fosters in them an appreciation and learning of social issues relating to the environment, social justice and productivity.
I note that this year, UTC’s programme focuses on teaching the students about issues surrounding persons living with disabilities in our country, allowing them the opportunity to interact with and learn from persons with a range of learning, sensory and physical disabilities.
It is hoped that this will engender in the participants the need and desire for them to be more sensitive to disability issues and feel comfortable around persons with disabilities.
Indeed, the ministry of Education has espoused a desire to do its part in this area, having signaled our intention to construct four schools for the special needs children of our country, and we have already turned the sod for the construction of such a school in Tobago.
I am also happy to note that another component included in this year’s programme is a one-day parent workshop, where the parents of these scholars will be given tools and strategies to best support their children, which of course, comes at a time when we are disturbed as a society, with too many reports of child abuse at the hands of guardians or parents.
Overall, this programme by the UTC will go a very long way towards engendering positive development of our students and their parents, and thus our society and I truly wish to endorse these efforts.
I sincerely hope that other major private corporations in our country follow the UTC’s lead in this project, and commit to so generously seeking after the welfare of our nation’s children and their positive holistic development.
Indeed, as the country celebrates our landmark 50th year of Independence, I am pleased to see that at least one private company has taken such a keen interest in our nation’s development, and has recognized that in order to make our country a better place, we must truly invest in the young people in every possible way.
I urge the parents and children who are benefiting from this Scholarship programme to please use it to your advantage and please recognize that you are indeed blessed to be part of it, and recognize that being poor and underprivileged is never an obstacle.
I speak from personal experience, for many years ago, before we had free universal secondary education, before we had Independence even, I was just like many of you in this room.
The exam we wrote back then was called College Exhibition and there were only four hundred College Exhibitions in those days.
I came from very poor, humble beginnings, having been born in Fyzabad in an ajoupa hut with a thatched roof, slept on a bag and travelled through a lagoon to go primary school, washing away mud from my feet, mud up to my knees, before I attended classes, carrying my few school books in a flour bag.
I remember when the results came in, I went to a local shop and somebody there told me my name was 11th place in the list of Exhibition winners.
That was my passport to education and if I did not persevere despite my poverty, I perhaps, would not be here today.
So I know firsthand what the parents and students here today feel like, and that is why my gratitude to the UTC is so heartfelt, and let me say that I thought it was important for me to share this story to show you that you too, can attain the best once you put your mind to it.
The Government and Ministry of Education is truly doing its part also, to ensure that our children, despite their circumstances, have the best chance, have equal opportunities, to achieve a proper education.
For a third consecutive year, the People’s Partnership Government’s promise of a free laptop for every child entering secondary school will be fulfilled once more, to ensure that they all have access to the technological opportunities of today.
Just yesterday, I also announced that Cabinet has approved the Schools Textbook Loan Programme to the sum of $94 million dollars, where students will benefit from free textbooks.
Students also benefit from free lunches and breakfasts in our schools, as well as free transportation in some areas.
So, I once more wish to urge parents and students to please note that we have dedicated a tremendous amount of resources to your children—both the Government and companies like the UTC—and it is up to you to make the best of them.
I urge you to therefore continue to aim for excellence at all times, and in all you do.
Always be mindful that thus far, your hard work and determination have brought you to this point and you therefore owe it to all who have and continue to invest in you, but most importantly, to yourselves, to continue to do your best in everything you do.
Do your best to continue to make us proud to have you as our future leaders and always remember that no matter what happens, when it happens or how it happens you must always believe that success shall be yours. For whatever your mind can conceive - you definitely achieve.
Thank you and May God continue to bless us all.