PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Take back schools and communities from so-called community leaders, chair of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Kris Rampersad told educators last week.
She was addressing the closing ceremony of a joint initiative by UNESCO and the Ministry of Education in Port of Spain for pilot training of some 125 principals, school supervisors and teachers.
Dr Kris Rampersad, Chair of Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO
“For too long our children have been kidnapped and our society has been hijacked and held to ransom by bandits and criminals who are held up as community leaders and to whom, tragically, the society now seems to be turning for advice to address the very problems they create. You are the community leaders,” Rampersad told the graduates, before they were presented certificates of completion of the course, Leading for Literacy Now!
“For too long the schoolmaster and mistress who were once significant and pivotal axes of social life in our villages and districts, have either abdicated their roles as leaders or been forced out of them by other social pressures,” she continued.
The educators participated in a pilot training in leadership skills training towards improving literacy levels beginning with primary schools with special focus on teachers of Infant I and II. A national call was made by the Commission through the Education Ministry and the participants were selected from voluntary applicants.
“For too long we have been held to ransom by bandits and criminals in the guise of leaders and social and community leaders. We ask you now to go back and reclaim those spaces; to see yourself and to present and represent yourselves as the leaders that you are. To put your hands up proudly when there are calls for meetings and discussions and consultations with community leaders and say that you are leaders in your community. We ask you that you return to your schools to no longer cower before bullying parents and misguided children and take charge!” Rampersad said.
She noted that the course has helped equip and tool principals and teachers to return to the new school term with fresh perspectives and approaches to face some of the challenges they may confront.
The exercise was conducted by facilitators from the UK-based National Training College for School Leadership with financial and other technical support from UNESCO, the Ministry of Education, the National Commission, BMobile and the Army Leadership Training Centre of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment.
“We ask you to use what you have learnt here to not just influence but to transform the directions of our education system and by extension our society as well,” Rampersad urged, noting a growing nervousness in the society enveloped in a wind of change that is causing considerable restless and which requires solid management of the processes of change and transformation.
Acknowledging that the problems facing educators are many, and not insignificant, she challenged the trainees to take their learning back to school and expressed the hope to see positive results by as early as the end of the first term – by December 2013.
“Three months is a very long time in the life of a child, and we know how much they can learn in short a short period. We need to capture their minds and imaginations before someone else does,” Rampersad pointed out.
She said the participants will be engaged in continuous assessment and will share their experiences and recommendations for expanding the programme to all schools and districts of Trinidad and Tobago, adding that commitment for such support has already been expressed by the Ministry of Education.
“We do not deny that the challenges are many and these times demand all our energies and intelligence to manage the changes that are inevitable. We have to ensure that such management occurs and we do not have the negative repercussions as we are witnessing taking place in Egypt and Syria and elsewhere. Let us manage and redirect the changes that are inevitable, drawing from your wisdom and experiences to positively impact our youth and harness their restless energies for change,” Rampersad said. “It will require open-mindedness, flexibility and a lot of patience.”
She also noted that, once the expected results are realised, the Commission hopes to be able to hold up Leading for Literacy Now this as a model project to UNESCO to share with the Caribbean and its global community.