This week our country, the Turks and Caicos Islands celebrated Education Week under the theme: “Centers of Learning: Our Heritages, Our People.” During the Ecumenical Service on Sunday at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Ministry and Department of Education paid tribute to our people and highlighted the former Ministers of Education who were in attendance.
I am pleased to offer thanks to the Ministry and the Education Department and to Mrs. Rachel Taylor and Ms. Dara Thomas who were the orators. You both spoke beautifully and demanded our attention as you reminded us from whence we came. At times there were eye-watering moments to really hear our former students, turn teachers, explain what we meant to them and our country.
I am proud that our people realized some of the dreams and visions of our great leaders who has served our country; the dreams and vision that Hon JAGS McCartney, Gustavus Lightbourne, Clement Howell and many of our other leaders including us former Ministers of Education had for our people and Country.
I believe that is what nationhood is all about. Our ancestors had to survive in order for us to be. We are here because they didn’t give up. They were determined to succeed even though they faced much tougher times than we will ever experience. They were the generations before us who paved the way.
Any acknowledgment or thanks I have received for my tenure as Minister of Education has to be shared with the great men and women, and of course the staff of the Ministry and Department of Education and the people who served with me. They were always willing to go the extra mile, even without adequate compensation.
Through the challenges I have faced in my life and those faced by others,
I have learned that problems can be debilitating or empowering, depending on the value and meaning that we attach to them.
I choose to use my challenges as stepping stones and as a reason to empower myself. You can do so also.
On Thursday I left my businesses using no excuses why I couldn’t attend the National Pride Day at The Enid Capron Primary School in Five Cays. Truly it was amazing to see all the hard work that was put into creating historical symbols and traces of our cultural heritage. I was only able to visit the South Caicos and Grand Turk tents where hand -crafted art of our rich architectures including the post office and an interesting reminder of our South Caicos regatta were on display. The hand-crafted models of the historical sites of the Islands, the large variety of foods, the music, and the beautiful costumes all combined to prove the institution a great centre of learning and a success. Before leaving to attend the Science Fair I enjoyed the rake and scrape music by Yellow Man and Mr. Robinson, but the highlight was the spur-of-the-moment old folks dance by Mrs Almartha Thomas and Mrs Rachel Taylor; the kind of folk dance that brought back memories of Grandma tying up her back and placing her hands on it to really express the music.
At the Science Fair it was also amazing to listen to our students explain their projects using what belong to us, what we have inherited as a people. I was impressed with the information given by the students about our salt pond, the salt fish and many more interesting projects that I wish I had the space to explain. However, I was so proud of our teachers, students and the sponsor, Fortis, who continues to give back to the Turks and Caicos Islands community.
You know, there is so much to learn about life and I thought about how ironic it was for Education Week and the International Women’s Day to coincide. I was able to attend the midday event as I sat in the wind at the Gustavus Lightbourne Sports Centre just outside the Science Fair and look around at my sisters giving of their time to pray and show their support.
I reminisced as I looked at the green field that had replaced the potholes and mud and I reflected on the Sunday tribute and the theme. I looked again, but this time for my sisters who were missing, the ones we were talking about, the ones who needed to be embraced and to be told that they can survive.
These days, violence is so commonplace in the lives of many young women and girls in the Turks and Caicos Islands regardless of economic, educational, and racial background.
Their conditions of poverty, is not taken seriously. Rape and sexual violence are on many occasions excluded from a human rights framework -- and reduced instead to conversations of cultural pathology and crime.
I listen yet I wondered what those other sisters were doing at that time while we left our businesses and jobs to join other women around the world on the bridge. The same bridge that signifies standing with women on March 8 to build bridges of peace and hope for the future.
Finally, it was time to return to the inside to celebrate the students for the judges had done their tally.
All of these events in the space of a few hours in one day, reinforced in my mind that we are the hands of God with different talents and strengths needed to do God’s work here for a season and to make the world a better place for our people to live in.