BACK TO SCHOOL ADDRESS FOR NEW SCHOOL TERM 2016-2017 BY DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER OF EDUCATION, HON. SHAWN K. RICHARDS

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Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Hon. Shawn K. Richards

Fellow citizens and residents of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, I consider this broadcast to be a very important one, as I speak to the nation on this occasion that signals the commencement of the academic year 2016/2017. The year begins in earnest on Monday, September 5, 2016 when thousands of pre-school, primary and secondary school students, and hundreds of teachers return to the classroom.
In my capacity as Minister of Education, I am delighted to welcome back to school: our students, our teachers, our administrators and out support staff. The Ministry of Education has unveiled the theme, “Education for All, Embrace Change, Secure the Future” as the working theme for the upcoming academic year. What is essential to this theme is the challenge it places on teachers and administrators. How do we embrace and realize education for all? It begins with honest appraisals, followed by hard decisions and a paradigm shift. It encompasses a firm commitment of all of us – students, teachers, parents and community to perform in ways that will exceed expectations.
Education for all challenges us as teachers and principals, as institutions of learning and as a ministry of education, to assess whether or not we have been equipping ourselves to unearth the God given abilities, gifts and talents of our students. This theme implies and recognizes that it is the right of all who come within the confines of our classrooms to receive a quality education. Therefore, this must be become the mission of all of us who are charged with the delivery of education in our country.
The ministry of education is proud of its successes for the last school year and is very excited about the prospects of the year ahead. I wish to identify a few of the prospects that we can look forward to in the year ahead: Integral to charting the course for a brighter educational future for all of the nation’s children is the integration of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training initiative (TVET). The recently launched TVET initiative is an indication of my ministry’s re-commitment to invest substantially in programmes of skill development that will create pathways to various levels of certification for secondary and post-secondary students. The construction of a brand new, state of the art Basseterre High School will begin during the upcoming school. Very shortly, the Cabinet of the government of national unity will make final its selection for the site of the new Basseterre High School. Faculty and staff at this institution as well as students and their parents are assured that work on their new school will commence before the end of 2016.
The ministry of education is cognizant of the need to reshape education in St. Kitts and Nevis. In so doing the ministry has mapped out a path that will align its policies with a number educational initiatives. Such initiatives include the OECS Education Sector Strategy Plan and the new Global Mandate, Education for all.
To better deliver education in a manner that meets 21st century standards, my ministry is pleased to announce that during this academic year, computer labs at all of our primary and secondary schools will be upgraded. The ministry of education has formalized its agreement in partnership with Ross University and Devry University. It is also the aim of my ministry to ensure that every classroom teacher will be provided with the necessary training to intergrade the use of technology in the instructional process.
In making a thrust to put our Students First, the Ministry of education has re-branded the REACH programme to meet the needs of our students who need it most. The REACH Programme has been renamed the SAFE Programme. The acronym SAFE stands for Support for the Advancement of Further Education. Students who are desirous of accessing the SAFE programme are advised to collect the application form the Project SELF Office located at Church Street and return the completed application form with the relevant documentation to the said office not later than Tuesday, September 20. 2016.
Our teachers must be commended for the work that they do in educating the nation’s children. The ministry of education expresses its appreciation to those teachers and principals who go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that our children are successful. This is a call that it extended to all teachers and principals. All of us are encouraged to go that extra mile by doing all that lies in our power to make our schools the best. In showing our appreciation to teachers, my ministry is taking steps to recognize the work that teachers do by offering tangible rewards. During the new school year, the ministry of education will embark on a National Teacher Reward System in recognition of the outstanding and excellent performance by our nation’s hard working teachers. This reward system will spotlight teachers at all of our schools and select a National Teacher of the Year. It is the hope of my ministry that such an incentive will serve as a source of motivation that will drive our teachers to give of their best.
I must also use this occasion to appeal to all of our parents to partner with your children’s teachers and principals to ensure that your children get the best education possible. To do this I ask that you get to know your children’s teachers, visit the schools whenever the occasions arise, not only when there is a student teacher conflict, attend parent teacher meetings and conferences, volunteer to work with school fundraising and other school events, and get involved in your local PTA. Most importantly demonstrate respect for your children’s teachers and principals. Strong student teacher parent relationships, I assure you, will promote greater student learning and success.
The ministry of education encourages the wider community, the business community, our alumni associations at home and abroad, to give greater support to our schools. Education is a partnership, and as such we invite organizations and individuals to come forward and lend support to teaching and learning. We invite our IT experts and professionals to extend a hand of support to our schools to assist our students and teachers in developing their skills in the technology field.
Over the summer vacation a number of our schools were undergoing minor repairs and renovations. At this point in time, one such school, Cayon Primary, is still undergoing repairs to the roof of one of its buildings. This has forced the ministry of education to delay the start of school for the students at Cayon Primary for one week. Parents of students attending Cayon Primary are kindly asked to note that their children will return to school on Monday, September 12, 2016. The ministry of education deeply regrets this inconvenience. We crave your indulgence as we seek to upgrade the physical plant at that school for the safety and comfort of the students.

The start of a new school year gives all of us, teachers and students alike, the opportunity to make new beginning, a fresh start. From day one, teachers and principals are encouraged to turn the spotlight on our students. In so doing, officials from the ministry of education will be in attendance at the opening assemblies in all of our schools – both primary and secondary. These education officials will deliver four key messages to our students. These messages are:
1. This is important.
2. You can do it!
3. I won’t give up on you.
4. Effective effort makes you smarter.
It is our hope that throughout the school year, teachers and principals, and parents would use these key messages to encourage and motivate our children.
When the school bell rings tomorrow, Monday, September 5, 2016 we expect every child in the federation at the pre-school, primary, and secondary levels to answer to their names. We want our children to stay in school for the entire year, to be respectful to teachers and to each other, and to learn all that they can. No child must be kept at home without good cause; likewise no child must be excluded from school except for cause as provided in the federation’s education act.
It is my sincere hope that everyone who works in the field of education, both professional and support staff will have a very productive school year. It is my very pleasant duty as minister of education to declare the 2016/2017 academic year officially launched.
I thank you.