A standing ovation with thunderous applause was the enthusiastic welcome given to Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron V. Walwyn at the opening of the Virgin Islands School of Technical Studies (VISTS) on Tuesday October 21.
The school was officially declared opened following remarks, singing of the school songs by students and presentation of the school creed to the Minister by one of the students of the new educational institution.
Mistress of Ceremony, and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Culture, Dr. Marcia Potter in her opening remarks stated that for too long the Teritory’s education system made youngsters feel that if one is unable to do well in the “academic” field (usually suggesting the areas of humanities and sciences) then one should pursue the technical vocational field where one is able to use his/her hands.
Dr. Potter said that it was therefore for a long time assumed that if a child was failing in school then he would move to do woodwork, electronics, home economics, and the like. However, this was an unfair way of thinking: “How far this was – and is – from the truth! Students pursuing the various fields under the Technical Vocational umbrella need to know as much Math, Chemistry, Physics etc as any other students in other programmes.,” she explained.
Mrs. Jillian Douglas-Phillips, Acting Chief Education Officer disclosed that the students of VISTS would learn skills such as construction, hospitality, catering, cosmetology, home economics, auto mechanic, and tourism industry. It was also noted that VISTS students will also be required to do courses in subjects such as English, mathematics, information technology, science, entrepreneurship and customer service.
The Acting Chief Education Officer told the students that they are making history as they are the first cohort of students of VISTS.
The Project Manager, Mr. Steve Augustine explained that some innovative measures were incorporated in the building; and he said that in his view the new campus is a gem.
Sixth District Representative, Hon. Alvera Maduro-Caines announced that the opening of VISTS is a practical step forward. She said that she is certain that the Territory’s students will benefit from the offering of the present educational sector.
Premier, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith told the gathering that government long needed to find an outlet and avenue to help the new generation to excel in their passion.
“In 2005 my government started the TechVoc programme at the college, but we have now taken it to another level where the playing field of opportunity is development for all. Gone are the days when technical education was looked down on and frowned upon. Gone are the days when technical education was not embraced.Today is a new day! A new day where we recognise the importance of technical education, and the extremely important part that those who work in that area play in the development of our territory,” Hon. Smith said.
The BVI Leader said that it is expected that the Virgin Islands School of Technical Studies will be a high quality school serving the needs of the Territory’s secondary school students, aspiring to training and development in technical fields.
Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron V. Walwyn told the gathering that many have suggested that a technical education institution should not be a priority for government and for the people of the Virgin Islands at this time, and in response he posed three questions to the naysayers: “Do we have an unemployment issue among young people in the Virgin Islands? Are students prepared for the available jobs in our economy? Is it satisfactory that in our country, our own people, particularly our young men, are relegated to sitting on the sidewalks, while labour is imported to do jobs that our youth can perform if they were adequately prepared?”
The Education Minister declared that the best thing tha
t any government can do for its young people is to ensure that they receive a sound education that will enable them to live independent and productive lives, where they can also make a contribution to this community.
“I contend that the development of this institution provides our young people with opportunities that will not only lead them to personal and professional success, but will also lead this Territory to continued success. Each classroom is outfitted with smart boards and other interactive tools that will engage our students and create a better teaching and learning environment for both teacher and student. Each student at this institution will be given iPads for the strict purpose of supporting their educational pursuits and to be used in the class lessons,” Hon. Walwyn announced.
Hon. Walwyn said that VISTS is a significant investment in the Territory’s students, and he mentioned that the time is ripe for the turning of the corner on technical and vocational education in the Virgin Islands, and for the preparation of students and for the Territory to benefit from opportunities that will come when there is a skilled labour force.
“This institution is a technical high school and not just a trade school, as there is a strong academic component that complements the technical subjects. I want to emphasize this to help our community understand that this school is not and will not be a reservoir for students or educators that are on the fringes of our education system. This school will not be used to baby sit students who for whatever reasons are having academic or social difficulties. This school is a high school intended for students interested in pursuing careers in the various trades and technical fields.”
The Minister further noted that the VISTS curriculum has a strong component to teach students, life skills, work skills, customer service skills, and entrepreneurial skills: “The curriculum also has a strong apprenticeship programme component and I am happy to also inform you today, that I have spoken with several business owners who understand what we are attempting to do with this school and have already signed up to provide our students with opportunities for apprenticeships in their businesses.”
Attending the well coordinated ceremony were His Excellency Governor John Duncan, Deputy Premier Dr. The Hon. Kedrick Pickering, Hon. Ronnie Skelton, and Hon. Marlon Penn.