Address
Hon. Shawn K Richards Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Education, Youth, Sports & Culture Work
& Contribution of Teachers
(Start of SKTU’s Teachers’ Week 2015) 3rd October, 2015
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Fellow citizens, brothers and sisters, residents, ladies and gentlemen, students, teachers, all.

I am here on this occasion to address you, not for an unduly long time, on the matter of the celebration of Teacher’s Week, which this year runs from today October 3rd through to next Saturday 10th.

I wish to begin my discourse with you by saluting all teachers, everywhere.  I greet all those involved and engaged in this noble profession, with a profound and overriding sense of pride, gratitude, and appreciation.

Yours is a contribution unmatched, and I dare say, unmatchable, anywhere on the planet.

I wish to take the opportunity to extend to you on behalf of the Ministry of Education, and on my own behalf, very best wishes for a school/academic year, already almost one month old, which will be free of danger or distress, and which will bring to you, your profession, your colleagues, your schools, your students, your families, your union, and your country, untold, unprecedented growth, prosperity, development, and success.

I dare propose that Government, my government, has already contributed in a tangible way toward facilitating the realisation of this objective of achieving excellence in all areas of your operation as teachers by ensuring that all schools are as fully staffed as possible, that there is an adequacy of needed supplies, and that the students at Basseterre High School are just about to enter their new temporary buildings at Taylors, which of course, will significantly improve the level of comfort and the teaching and learning experience.

I want now to again congratulate and thank you teachers, you facilitators of learning, for your persistent and characteristic hard work over the years, including, of course, the one just past.

The Ministry is satisfied that by and large, the teaching fraternity in St. Kitts, and in Nevis, is one of quality.  Because it is abundantly clear to me that it takes teachers of an exceptionally high caliber, operating at an elevated standard, to produce the kinds of results in our students, that you have.

You teachers have defied the odds, and have achieved remarkable feats.  For despite facing several problems in the modus operandi of your profession, in spite of the lack of sometimes critical resources in expertise, material and amenities, you produce results that get better year after year.

Indeed, it is apt to say that you have achieved much without much, and congratulations are certainly in full order.

We in Government, Team Unity, are committed to working to expedite the process designed to ensure that working conditions for all teachers are improved to the best state possible, as a tangible means of demonstrating how much we honour and value you and your work.

I must continue now by reiterating the extreme confidence that I, as Minister of Education, have in you, faithful, reliable, committed members of the profession, devoted to the task of providing quality education to our rising generation.

This confidence I place in you teachers, is derived from your very commendable performance over the past academic year, strengthened and supported, as it were, by previous instances of sterling performances by you year after year.

The outstanding results of our students at the Test-of-Standards, CXC and CAPE exams is irrefutable testimony of the strength and quality of your input in the teaching learning process, and so on this the start of Teachers’ Week 2015, I salute you, again.

I also salute you the nation’s teachers, not just as members of the Teachers’ Union, which is in and of itself a very useful, desirable and welcome reality, but even more so as practitioners of a common fraternity called teaching.

It is the collective effort of individuals such as yourselves which is largely if not exclusively responsible for creating an environment in which we can boast that the standard of education in our Federation is as good as many and better than most.

Teachers, let there be no doubt about it. It is you, in the judicious, intelligent discharge of your duties as teachers, who are the reason, the cause for the fact that the education system on St. Kitts is making strides.

For this, I wish to thank you most profoundly and genuinely.  In recognition of the outstanding contribution of one of our recently-fallen comrade-in-arms, so to speak, I ask now that you join me in observing one minute’s silence in respect and remembrance of our late sister teacher, Mrs. Yvonne Walters, better and affectionately known as Teacher Mulley, who died just last week.  She had been a teacher for an aggregate of almost 40 years. May her soul ever rest in peace.

Now, for those of you left on the land of the living, still occupying residence on God’s planet earth, the challenge is yours to commit yourselves to ensuring that you do all in your power to so employ your talents, resources and efforts that you create the most comfortable environment for your students, so that their learning could be better, faster, and wider and deeper.

I agree with the former Hon. Minister of Education Sam Condor when he advised that if one does not have the best conditions to work in or under, he must nevertheless make the best of whatever conditions prevail.

I really think that this is sound advice, because the reality is that given the nation’s limited resources, it may not be possible to always have the very best.

Of course, this is not to say that we must not advocate for better. Most certainly not.  After all, not only is room for improvement never full, but your very motto obliges and expects you to ‘agitate, educate, liberate.’

So you will ever be in the vanguard of the movement for improved educational outputs from your clients, the students.  There is no need to stress the point that better teaching conditions for all workers, including teachers, lead to better learning conditions for our students, and this would surely itself lead to better behavior, attitudes and performance of our students.

Always remember that the interests of your students is your main focus.  Your students’ welfare and well-being, academically, morally and otherwise, must always be your central concern.

I wish also to use this occasion to plead with you teachers to recommit yourselves to working towards a better, more successful, productive academic year 2015-2016.

We must hear less complaints from your co-workers, your supervisors (principals and education officers), our parents, our students, our business sector and the wider community, about some teachers’ unbecoming behavior on and off the school compound.  There are too many complaints, legitimate complaints I may add, of some of our teachers not preparing work, being regularly late and absent, being improperly and inappropriately attired, using less-than-decent language in the presence of students, not attending or participating in staff meetings, development sessions, extra-curriculum activity, etc., without proper reason or excuse.

May I remind you that not only is such behavior from and among teachers unprofessional and unacceptable, but also, it compromises the integrity of the profession, and weakens the position of the SKTU when it has to make representation on your behalf, for whatever reason.

I plead with you to desist from such unpleasant behaviors.  Even one instance from one teacher can permanently and seriously hinder our collective and/or individual progress.

Fortunately, such teachers who may be the subject of these complaints are in the clear minority.

Because, thankfully, the majority of our teachers are honest, dedicated, and, as such, very much appreciated and honoured.

Indeed, page 21 of our own ‘road map’ for Education, the White Paper on Education Development and Policy 2009-2019, reiterates that (Quote)”Teachers’ work is valuable and indispensable” (end quote).

Yet I firmly hold the view that in order for teachers and teaching to be truly worthy of the accolade long ago bestowed on it by the Roman Statesman Cicero as being the most noble of professions, we must together cleanse and refine the chambers of imagery of our teachers by translating criticism into assistance.  The sages and heroes of history may be receding from us, and our contemporaries may contract the records of our deeds into a narrower page, but a bright and fair future beckons to behold and to be held if teachers are honoured as ought.

This week, Teachers’ Week 2015, is to be one of sober reflection and introspection.  It must also be an occasion for celebration.

I wish to conclude by repeating my love and respect for the teaching profession, and my confidence in you teachers to deliver a quality product.

Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the principle that teaching is a profession too noble and too indispensable for mediocrity and lassitude.  It calls you to a high and lofty plane.

May we rise majestically to the occasion.

And it is anticipation and expectation that our teachers in the Federation will so rise, that I hereby declare open the St. Kitts Teachers Union Teachers Week 2015.

I wish it complete success.

Thank you, and good night.

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