Address Delivered by Honourable Mario Michel
Minister of Education, Human Resource Development,
Youth and Sports at the National Youth Rally
Vigie Sports Complex
Wednesday February 22, 2006
Her Excellency the Governor General, Dame Pearlette Louisy
Honourable Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony
Colleague Ministers of Government and Members of Parliament
Cabinet Secretary and Chairman of the Independence Anniversay Committee, Dr. Jimmy Fletcher
Acting Permanent Secretary for Education and Human Resource Development, Ms. Esther Brathwaite
Other Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Government Departments
Chief Education Officer and other officials of the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports
School principals, teachers, students
Other invited guests
Representatives of the media
Allow me to commence my brief address to you this morning by bringing greetings and best wishes to everyone present here today and to those following the proceedings on the electronic media for a happy twenty seventh independence anniversary.
Twenty seven years may seem like a very long time to the majority of you who are gathered here today, since most of you were not yet conceived twenty seven years ago. But to others it might seem like only yesterday that the Union Jack the red, white and blue flag of Great Britain was lowered at the wharf in Castries and the black, white, blue and gold flag of St. Lucia was proudly hoisted on February 22nd 1979 to signal the birth of our nation.
But whatever may be ones perception of the time which has elapsed since our attainment of nationhood twenty seven years ago today, the fact is that we have achieved much since then.
Focusing for present purposes only on major achievements in the sectors of Education, Human Resource Development, Youth & Sports, we can highlight the following:
(1)We achieved universal primary education, so that every child in St. Lucia is guaranteed a place in primary school at age 5.
(2)We have eliminated the shift system which had deprived hundreds of primary school students of a full day of schooling.
(3)We have moved from 5 five-form secondary schools in St. Lucia at the time of our attainment of independence to 20 at present and with another 4 to be operationalised by the end of this year.
(4)We have established a reputable national community college offering
certificate, diploma and associate degree programmes in a range of disciplines
and offering as well first, second and even full bachelors degree programmes of
the University of the West Indies.
(5)We have trained thousands of young St. Lucians in all professions and disciplines, to the extent that we now have or are approaching an over supply of lawyers, doctors and engineers, in addition to persons trained in fields like management, agriculture and psychology.
(6)We have established, recognized and institutionalized a National Youth Council in St. Lucia and formulated a National Youth Policy.
(7)We have built the most modern state-of-the-art national stadium in the Caribbean today, catering to football and track and field.
(8)We have built the best cricket ground in the Caribbean, which will next month host the first ever international night cricket matches to be played in the region.
(9)We have also seen the establishment of several other sporting facilities in St. Lucia, both by the private sector like the tennis center, the squash court, the 18-hole golf course and the aquatic center and by government like the Vigie Multi Purpose Complex, the Phillip Marcellin Ground and several new and improved playing fields and courts around St. Lucia.
(10) Of course our major human resource achievement since independence is the award of Nobel prizes to two of our native sons the late Sir Arthur Lewis and the living literature legend, the Honourable Derek Walcott.
But there is still so much to be achieved and it is your turn now the youth and students of St. Lucia to contribute to these achievements.
We have given the world Sir Arthur Lewis and his brother, Sir Allen; we have given the world Derek Walcott and his brother, Roddy; but the factory which produces national genius is not closed, and any of you students here today can become a major contributor to your country in the future. But it is now that you must put in the effort.
Even without trying to achieve genius though, our youth and students must work hard just so as to be able to deal with the realities which will confront them in the immediate future.
Our country will as of June this year become part of a Caribbean Single Market in which goods and services will trade freely between the countries of the Caribbean. By 2008 it is expected to become part of a single Caribbean economy when the full Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) becomes operational and then there will be no barriers to the free movement of people and money between the countries of the Caribbean. At that time your birth certificate will not be enough to secure you a job in your country and you will need some other certificate to show academic or technical competence in order to guarantee you employment. That is why we have insisted that universal secondary education will be ushered in this year the year of the single market and that as of this year every child sitting the Common Entrance Exam will be offered a place in secondary school; and that by 2008 the year of the single economy no child will leave school in St. Lucia without attaining a secondary education. We have no choice, unless we want to condemn our children to a life of roaming the Caribbean in search of crumbs from the table of regional integration.
But students, I want to caution you that universal secondary education is not a license to slack off on your school work in the certain knowledge that you will have a guaranteed place in secondary school. On the contrary, it should cause you to realize what the new minimum standards of educational attainment are and why, therefore, you need to work even harder than the students before you.
The world is changing, and while in many respects it may be changing for the better, there is no doubt about the fact that it is becoming better and better for those who are prepared to put in more effort and achieve more, but much more difficult for those who are not prepared to put in the effort.
As a government we will continue to do the best that we can to lay the foundation for you, but it is you who must build the house of your future. So go out there students and give of your best whether at Minimum Standards Test, Common Entrance Exams or CXCs, in sports, in culture or in your school enrichment programmes. Your future depends on you. And remember: Se payi nou pouvwa se ca nou (it is our country the power is ours).
I thank you.
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