Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports
Release Date:
Sunday, 8 March 2015 - 2:45pm

Sunday, March 08, 2015 – Central Admin Complex, Road Town, Tortola

  1. I would like to recognise the presence of:
  • Premier, Hon Dr D. Orlando Smith
  • Members of Cabinet
  • Retired education professionals
  • Education Officers
  • Principals
  • Teachers
  • Education Support Staff
  • Parents, students and members of our community

Good afternoon to you all.

  1. It was Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher that opined – “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”  In the past years of education we have indeed been nurturing the roots of a vibrant education system and I do believe that we have already tasted the sweet fruit of our collective labour thus far.
  2. Education professionals, parents, students and community members, thank you for the opportunity to share a few brief words as we celebrate another Education Week in the Virgin Islands.  The week is intended for us to commemorate all that has been accomplished in education, but it is also a time of much reflection and planning for us to truly transform our system to one that houses a culture of excellence which by no means will be achieved overnight. 
  1. Like farmers, for years, we have planted roots of change within our education system, we have weeded our garden of educational development for the Territory, we have planted new and various stalks in our programmes and offerings, and we are steadily watering regularly to ensure that our crop, our education system, and our students are the finest in our region.  With the success of our students and the positive changes reflected in our present system, the sweet fruit of an improved education system is ripe for our students and our wider community.
  1. As Minister for Education and Culture, I want to report to our community that the fine men and women that work in our schools and in the Ministry of Education continues to work steadfastly to ensure that our education system serves its purpose of ensuring that each child within our system has the opportunity to learn to their full potential.
  1. To ensure this, over the past few years we have reinvested substantially in really rebuilding our education system so that it can serve this current generation and the current economy of the Territory.  For the first time in a number of years, the Virgin Islands education system has really taken a hard and honest look at our purpose and our results.  We have swallowed the bitter pill of reality and are now actively working to ensure that we fulfill that purpose and that our results improve to the benefit of our students and wider community.
  1. We have invested in our educators, the physical structures of our schools, the development of programmes to truly serve the varying needs and learning styles of our students, introduced courses that are relevant to the economy of the Virgin Islands and even the actual development of a much needed technical high school to answer the demand for skilled local workers in the trade fields.   Virgin Islands community, over the past few years, we have done a substantial amount of work and we do have results to prove this.
  1. I stand here today proud of the team of professionals that serve in the Ministry and throughout our schools.  They have been patient, providing their expert advice and expert criticism and I remain thankful to them for helping to guide and steer our education system in this new direction.  So today I am also optimistic about the future of the Virgin Islands because the students that are within our care are truly getting a first rate experience and that is due to the men and women working in our education system. 
  1. The theme for this year’s Education Week is: Education through Culture; A Virgin Islands Experience.  While I am certain we will have many interpretations of the theme, what stands out most to me after I took some time to really ponder on the theme is that here in the Virgin Islands we do have a unique experience.  Our way of life, which is our culture, beyond the fungi music, stories of years past and our food, our culture, is indeed unique. 
  1. I have asked myself, what must we do to ensure that the present generation and the next generation and the next have a similar experience as we have had? I have concluded that we must educate our young people so that they have the opportunity to become the leaders of our industries, the drivers of our economy and the ones that will be making the decisions for this Territory to ensure that our culture, our way of life continues. 
  1. That has always been the driving factors for us to rebuild our education system to include cultural aspects, teaching Virgin Islands History, Tourism and Financial Services in our schools.  It’s been the main reason that our administration set about institutionalising our identity, our Territorial dress, our Territorial song, our Territorial signs and symbols, and our Territorial.  We even now have a much needed Culture Policy.  We wanted there to be with certainty a description and marker of who we are as a people and making it an active part of our children’s overall development. 
  1. We must have an education system that empowers our young but one that also keeps them grounded in our identity as Virgin Islanders whether they were born here or now call these islands their home.  So it is through education and ensuring that all of our students harvest and taste the sweet fruit of opportunities that education brings that I believe we have the best chance to ensure that our culture and our identity as Virgin Islanders live on for generations. 
  1. To our teachers and principals, I urge you to be vigilant in your schools and your classrooms.  Ensure that all of our children, regardless of their ability are learning.  It is part of your job to transmit our culture no matter the subject area you teach.  As much as you can, make knowledge accessible and alive so that our students understand and can transfer the knowledge gained at the next level of their education, on their jobs or in the classrooms of tertiary institutions.
  1. I have said before that you our educators are the architects of our society. Our economy and wider society will thrive when you do your part by educating our students and helping to develop young people with astute moral character, childlike curiosity to know and learn new things, young people that are inspired to master course content and young people, because of the impact you have in the classroom and their lives will have the confidence to face any challenge that is in their path.  Educators, you hold the key to the society that we will have.
  1. The society that we have is a reflection of the work and the education system that serves this community.  So perhaps we should all ask ourselves, what type of society we hope to have and how must we change our own mindsets, attitudes and even work ethic to obtain that society?
  1. For many of our young people, you our teachers and principals are their first positive role models in their lives.  This is where I see that we have an opportunity to really impact those students by being that positive role model and by your actions showing what it means to be a just and upstanding member of that morally grounded and productive society we all desire.
  1. Outside of the academic instructions, your students are also looking to you to be examples.  The way you interact with your fellow teachers, the respect that you show to your supervisors, whether you come to work or class on time, these are quiet lessons that our students are paying attention to.  So teachers I ask you to remember this as you go about performing your duties in what I consider, one of the most noble professions of all time.
  1. I stand with you and I will continue to find ways to celebrate your hard work, invest in your development and remind our community of your value and importance in building the society we desire.  
  1. Parents, I ask that you continue to be active participants of your child’s education.  We cannot leave it up entirely to the teachers and principals to produce scholars and law-abiding citizens.  Their love and appreciation for the value of education first comes from home and I dare say that their respect for authority should first come from home.   
  1. The lessons from Proverbs chapter 22 and verse six is timeless, as we are admonished to: Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
  1. Training our children in understanding what is right and just, training our children with an appreciation for hard and honest work; training our children with the goal of excellence in all areas of their lives; these are the tenets we speak about when we refer to our ancestors, when we refer to truths and values of long ago. We are promised that when we do this, the wisdom of those teachings will remain with them forever.  And this lesson is even more important today.  This is part of who we are as Virgin Islanders.  We have always had an appreciation for hard work, honestly and integrity.  
  1. Parents, we must be the ones that set the tone for learning.  Just as we have always been excited and encouraging when our young ones utter their first words and we try to teach them new skills when they are toddlers, with the same enthusiasm, we need to ensure the English, Math and Science homework is completed.  Studies have proven time and time again that when a child sees a parent taking an active interest in their well-being and their school work that child gains confidence and works harder to live up to the standards and expectations of their parents.  So we must be the first influencers of our child’s education, not the tv and not the iPad.  It is on us my fellow parents, to prepare our children to meet their teachers in the classroom.
  1. I want to encourage our community to take a minute or two and say a good word of reinforcement to our students and our education professionals and support staff.  They have endured these changes over the past few years and the  successes of our students to date tells us that we are on the right path to securing the future and the Virgin Islands for its people by empowering our youth through education. 
  1. I take this time to say thanks to all the educators who have been at the forefront and behind the scenes ensuring that the activities of this week take place. I want to say a very special thank you to Mrs. Ruth Fraser. She has toiled long and hard and has over the last years taken on the mantle to ensure the success of the education week activities, the debates and many other initiatives. Your work is truly appreciated.
  1. To all Education Officers, Principals, teachers and staff of our schools I also express our gratitude for all you do in and outside the classroom as well as your preparation for today’s activity and those for the week ahead. Without you, our young people cannot easily achieve their aspirations. The work that you do is important in molding the minds that this country needs for productivity.  What you do in your classrooms on a daily basis matters.  It matters to the young eyes watching and it matters to the overall success of this Territory. 
  1. I encourage all to support the activities of the week whether it be the inter primary sports, the inter secondary schools’ debate, the fungi concert featuring Mr. Elmore Stoutt or listening to the round table discussion with some of our stalwarts in education on television and I hope you have visited all the booths here at the complex today to get a ‘taste’ of the Virgin Islands – find out what is unique about every island making up our Territory.
  1. I trust that as we all enjoy the activities of this week we will ponder in our hearts and minds long after the end of this Education Week, what it means to be a Virgin Islander, not just the tangible but also the intangible and as we encompass change, through our education system, let us move forward with the determination to build these islands with a firm understanding and appreciation of our heritage.
  1. Thank you and may God continue to bless these Virgin Islands.