The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer
Click for Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis Forecast
No. 725 • September 19, 2008
 
SKN Observer
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 fully established.

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 Security.

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 nation’s youth has generated some industry icons – Mark Brantley, Leslie ‘Sugar Bowl’ Morton, Wanda Pinney, Maritza Bowry, Colin Cannoier, Janelle Lewis, Alex Straun….. Such successes are worthy of their own headlines!

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).

 
 
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