|VISIONAIRES - By ELVIN BAILEY
It is a Biblical truth that where there is no vision,
people perish. Twenty-five years ago, under the leadership
of Chairman Richard Caines, the Social Security Board
decided that an appropriate independence gift to the
new nation of St. Christopher and Nevis would be the
establishment of a scholarship to the youth of the
country as they completed high school. Some readers
may recall that free comprehensive education for all
youths aged between 11 and 16 had already been enacted,
although the cost of free education had not yet been
I asked Mr. Caines what motivated the board to choose
a gift that kept on giving? Why not a one-time monument,
somewhere, dedicated to the people of St. Kitts and
Nevis? His response spoke volumes to the character
of the man and the quality of his leadership. We
wanted an easier way to touch the hearts of the people.
We have to educate the nation or we will be a nation
of the poor. This was one way of transferring wealth.
The board then comprised Mr. Caines, Mr. Michael
Morton, Ms. Glenneth Williams, Hon. Ivor Stevens,
Mr. Henry Martin, Mr. George Gillanders, Hon. Constance
Mitcham, Mr. Wilbert Wilkinson and Mr. Spencer Maynard;
with Mr. Robert Manning as [executive] director.
At its inception, the programme was administered
by a committee that was chaired by Mr. Michael Morton,
and assisted students from Forms 3 and 5. One student
per high school was chosen there were only
5 high schools then: 3 in St Kitts and 2 in Nevis.
Over the years, the scholarship programme has undergone
several changes that have made it one of the most
prestigious scholarship programmes in the country.
The present committee is currently chaired by Ms.
Eslyn Swanston and includes representation from the
Departments of Education (both St Kitts and Nevis),
the University of the West Indies and former teachers.
It has been expanded to include university level
training with the introduction of the Robert Manning
University Scholarship in 1994 and the Stanley Amory
Technical Scholarship in 2007 the latter being
designed to facilitate tech-voc education. The upgraded
high school scholarship programme was renamed to the
Susanna Lee High School Scholarship (SLHSS).
The board has been very creative in the application
of its criteria. For example, when, in one year, none
of the university applicants needed a full award,
the funds were used to facilitate four students. In
some ways, this has now become a tradition
at the last rotation, another four persons were assisted.
Also, the SLHSS was increased from a 3-year award
to a 7-year award to cover all high school years plus
post secondary education. At another time, a bursary
was given to a child who was discovered to be in dire
need after the school year had started.
A major component of the SLHSS is the mentoring and
coaching that takes place as well as the summer placement
activity that gives these students invaluable work
experience and insights into the working of Social
Has this investment paid off? Absolutely! Your Social
Security has facilitated the education of about 150
students to achieve GCE, CSEC and CAPE. Since 2003,
32 of our 42 students (41 because one student migrated)
have passed 268 CSEC subjects, with 82 distinctions
and a mode of 9 subject passes. (I was unable to obtain
the CAPE results due to time constraints).
Couple this with the 16 persons, holders of bachelor
degrees, who are shaping the economic landscape of
St Kitts-Nevis and beyond. The investment in the nations
youth has generated some industry icons Mark
Brantley, Leslie Sugar Bowl Morton, Wanda
Pinney, Maritza Bowry, Colin Cannoier, Janelle Lewis,
.. Such successes are worthy of their
This month (September), another seven students have
become proud awardees of the SLHSS. They have big
shoes to fill, but we will work with them every step
of the way. The Robert Manning University Scholarship
was also up for grabs, and four persons were successful.
We wish all of our scholars well, especially Mark
Caesar who is the first recipient of the technical
award and is currently enrolled, pursuing studies
in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration.
The corollary of the opening statement is that where
there is vision, a people flourish. We can only flourish
with commitment, dedication and hard work. Therefore,
I call upon all of us to do our part to ensure the
success of our nation; and to pay up all contributions
due in the time that they are due.
Thanks, Mr. Caines, to the board and to Minister
Powell who was the then Minister for Social Security.
I have learnt two important lessons from this: Investment
in young people is always money well spent, and vision
is colour blind!
According to James Russel Lowell, Methodist hymnist,
once to every man and nation, comes the moment to
decide...for the good or evil side...offering each
the bloom or blight. In 1983, the Social Security
Board chose to do good and it has bloomed. What have
you done for your country lately?
(Adapted from a paper by Trevere Elliot-Swanston).