Hon. Shawn Richards; Dorothy Warner, secretary-general of the SKN national commission for UNESCO; Ambassador David Doyle.

Deputy Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Shawn Richards, touched on a topic close to his ministerial portfolio — education — before a packed audience of UNESCO ministers converged in Paris to attend the 40th Session of the General Conference this month, commending UNESCO for its “penetrating” review of St. Kitts and Nevis’ education strategy and structures back in 2017.

“Central to our priorities arising from this review is the ongoing building of a framework for professionalizing teaching staff, with UNESCO input,” he said.

Minister Richards explained the Federation now seeks UNESCO’s expertise in addressing the other factors that undermine high-quality teaching and learning including:

  • an outdated national curriculum and assessment framework
  • insufficient policies on quality and safety standards for education and training institutions.”

The minister highlighted “young men‘s access to, and active participation in, life-long quality education” as the second most important priority. He noted the government was fully cognizant that social development cannot occur as long as young people are marginalized, ostracized or disregarded, and the vital role education plays in social and youth development. But, he warned “it must proceed hand-in-hand with developing an education strategy fit for the 21st Century that links higher and continuing education with labour market needs.”

Minister Richards paid tribute to UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP), which in the past few months has been providing policy advice and tools to address the Federation’s  challenges in developing a sustainable water strategy. In mid-October, St. Kitts and Nevis hosted a UNESCO-IHP High-level Ministerial symposium on “Water for Sustainable Development in the Caribbean SIDS: Achieving water security.”

The Minister reminded conference ministers how small island vulnerability factors can be directly affected by limited freshwater — both ground and surface water — resources, arising from rising sea levels, climate variability and change.

“Given that SIDS are encircled by marine water, saltwater intrusion into groundwater resources has become a problem of some magnitude,” he said.

Over the past year, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Ambassador David Doyle has been building relations with the UNESCO-IHP in Paris —the only intergovernmental programme of the United Nations (UN) system devoted to water research, water resources management, and education and capacity-building. On behalf of all the Caribbean states, Minister Richards called upon the UNESCO-IHP to accompany the islands in developing sustainable water capacity policies, and to support them in strengthening their scientific, technical and policy capacities.

“We take solace that, in spite of these uncertainties, Member States like ours have come to rely more than ever UNESCO’s comparative advantage, and competencies, in fostering peace to war-torn societies and in eradicating poverty in our societies.  Our vulnerable small islands appreciate UNESCO’s efforts in strengthening our capacity to address challenges of climate change, access to education and protection of our cultural heritage,” he said, noting multi-dimensional challenges across the world, from “global warming to massive displacement of communities fleeing wars, famine and social upheaval, from soaring inequality to hugely damaging financial shocks”.

Ambassador Doyle declared the St. Kitts and Nevis presence at the conference a resounding success.

“The government of St. Kitts and Nevis welcomes the heightened importance provided by UNESCO in deploying its unique multi-disciplinary expertise —in science, culture, climate change, education, biodiversity resource preservation, knowledge management and information for decision-making —in addressing the multiplicity of challenges facing SIDS”.

Dorothy Warner, secretary-general of the SKN national commission for UNESCO, was equally impressed with the productive outcome of the meetings and events at the 40th session of the General Conference, which provided her with the opportunity to introduce herself for the first time to the key UNESCO Secretariat policy experts in Paris, notably in education and science.

She also held discussions on the next steps in strengthening the Man & Biosphere site in St. Mary’s in Cayon, with Miguel CLÜSENER-GODT, Director, Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences and Secretary, Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme.