Independence Address to the Youth Rally by The Rt. Hon. Sir John G.M. Compton February 22, 2007
PRIME MINISTER, THE RT. HON. SIR JOHN COMPTON
INDEPENDENCE DAY YOUTH RALLY
FEBRUARY 22ND, 2007
Your Excellency, the Governor General;
Honourable Minister for Education and members of Cabinet and of the House of Parliament of Saint Lucia;
Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Principals, Teachers, students, parents and guardians, ladies and gentlemen:
Today, I once again have the privilege to address the children of Saint Lucia. The last time I did so was eleven years ago when I said farewell to you as your Prime Minister. Some of you who heard me then, as students, now hear me perhaps as teachers.
In whatever capacity you are today, I address you with great humility as I am aware that I address, many of whom will be the leaders of Saint Lucia, be it as teachers, business or professional people; be it as farmers or fishermen; be it as doctors, lawyers, engineers or electricians – all have a part – an important part in building the future of our country. What Saint Lucia will be in ten years time will depend very much upon how you prepare yourselves today. The seed you plant today will be the fruit you eat tomorrow, or as the saying goes in our vernacular, ‘how you make your bed, that is how you will lie on it’.
Twenty-eight years ago, in discussing what should be done as a lasting monument in celebration of our Independence, we did not choose a monument of concrete and stone. We did not choose to erect a building – we chose to invest in our future by educating our young people, by making secondary education free for all who qualify in the common entrance examination. How right that decision was can be seen, that today many of those who benefited from that decision are in leadership positions, not only in Saint Lucia but in many of the international organizations. They should be your role models, they are the ones who have cut through the undergrowth and cut the trail in your pursuit of excellence.
The theme chosen for this years’ Independence celebration, ‘Rising to the Challenges of Globalization’ is both relevant and timely.
It directs our thoughts to the realities of the modern world. Modern communications have broken all physical barriers. The bird flu in far away places causes a shortage of poultry meat in Saint Lucia. The terrorism of 9/11 affects the jobs in small hotels. The CARICOM Countries have agreed to create a Single Market and Economy in which, not only goods can travel without barriers, but also people can travel as well, but only people with certain qualifications. You therefore have to educate and train yourself to compete for employment not only with your fellow Saint Lucians, but others from other CARICOM countries, with higher educational standards.
Our duty is to equip you with the standard of education to permit you to compete and you must equip yourselves to meet these challenges.
Your birth certificate and your residence here will give you a head start, but it will not give you protection – your birth certificate therefore is not the only certificate you should have.
Last year, the policy of Universal Secondary Education was announced. To meet its lofty goal of offering education beyond the primary stage, much needs to be done to fine tune it – to ensure that each child is placed in a school or institution best suited for his or her talent. For this reason, your Government has created a Task Force headed by a distinguished former Minister of Education, Mr Louis George, to report before the beginning of the next school year.
It is realized that some children will be placed in schools away from his or her district. Government will re-introduce subsidized school transport to relieve the parents of this financial burden. We shall transport the children to the school to which they are assigned and take them back. The loitering on the roadside will be a thing of the past.
In grading the schools and planning the students we are reminded of the parable of the talent: some were given ten talents, some five and some one, but every person was given a talent. It is how we use the talent we have been given that matters. We can waste it idleness or we can invest it in our education.
This will cost money, but it is an investment the county must be prepared to make to permit its children to ‘rise to the global challenges’.
There will be many challenges which you will face in this globlized world, so too are the opportunities. Here I am reminded of the creed I leant from one well known teacher and Arch Bishop Finbar Ryan, who drilled this into us and I recount it to you as you face these challenges of life,
“I am only one, but I am one –
I cannot do everything but I can do something;
Whatever I can do I will do
and do it well with the help of God.”
Now go forth to prepare to serve Saint Lucia and use whatever talents God has given you.
God bless you and bless our homeland forever.
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