Students, tell me, I want to hear you, are you happy with this policy of giving First Form students lap tops? (Wait for kids to answer). This morning, we have the honour of having some of the 2012 National Scholarship winners from St Mary’s College join us to celebrate and because of that, we have a dual celebration---that of the achievement of you first formers who passed the SEA exams to be First Form here, whose diligence and dedication are being rewarded with the laptops, I believe it will be 178 students receiving lap tops, and that of the Sixth Formers, whose great academic brilliance is being rewarded with scholarships. Congratulations to our Island Scholars as well.
First formers—take note—that one day you will be called on to do your school similar honour and I urge you to prepare for this task ardently and diligently. It’s about six years ahead of you, and I urge you to take these six years very seriously in terms of your academic and extra-curricular activities. I want to wish you well in your academic and extra-curricular activities.
I am pleased as your Minister of Education, that our Government’s ongoing commitment to our nation’s children is being aptly demonstrated by these rewards of free laptops and scholarships, for it proves that we will, at any cost, ensure that you, our students, the future of our nation, are equipped with the best resources to attain the best education available to anyone, not only nationally but also globally. You are receiving one of the best educations that any child will receive in any part of the world at your age.
This year, the Government continues with our laptop programme, This is the third year. And at the end of this exercise, when we would have completed it at the end of this month, at the end of this week, we would’ve completed the distribution of 17,400 lap tops to our students, Form 1 students throughout Trinidad and Tobago. And we would have given out close to 55,000 lap tops in Trinidad and Tobago to our First Form students, who are now, some in Form Two, and some are now in Form Three, and we will continue this for the next two years. And we’ve also given more than 3,000 teachers their lap tops, and helped to train them in the use of ICT with the curriculum infusion. So I want to briefly touch on some of the specifications that our children will be receiving in these very quality products.
The Model is HP ProBook 4440s, with a memory of 2 Gigabytes, it’s very large in storage, with the numerous features, include Integrated Intel HD Graphics, SRS Premium Sound, Integrated microphone, Integrated stereo speakers, Integrated Webcam 720p and a battery life for up to six hours.
The Ministry of Education is providing Productivity Software, a one (1) year warranty, customer carry-in to the depot if you have difficulty, on both Laptop and Battery Parts and Labour and you also have Antivirus Software, as well as Tracking for Recovery (Software/ Device). You remember that two lap tops were stolen, and two gentlemen ended up in jail, one doing nine months and one doing seven months because we were able to retrieve the lap tops within 48 to 72 hours. So no should be able to steal your lap tops and get away with it.
And the Honourable Prime Minister indicated to me and she instructed me as Minister of Education, to make sure that we have our national colours on your lap tops. So anyone stealing your lap tops, you’d know it’s a student lap top. So if a senior citizen has it and is trying to sell it, you’d know it’s a student lap top that person is trying to sell. Stolen of course. We have Absolute Software which includes Asset Administration, Data & Device Security, Geotechnology and Theft Recovery.
Your Principals, and all the Principals throughout Trinidad and Tobago have been given details of the various educational software programmes on the laptops. I believe there are about 16 programmes that Microsoft has generously donated to us at minimal cost, and they’ve also revealed other details about the warranties and call-centres for assistance, which I expect they will share with the students and their parents.
I can say by the end of this week, I’ve been told by our Head of our IT Department, Mr. Rajnath Singh who is here with me, we hope to distribute all the 17,400 laptops throughout all the schools in Trinidad and Tobago by Friday.
I have said before, and I find it necessary to reiterate this, that the Ministry of Education’s policy in giving laptops to our students is one which aims at poverty reduction, equality, equality students, so that the poor students in your class can receive a lap top and so there must be equality in our education system, ensuring our children are well equipped for the global world of technology that now dominates our landscape. So you must be IT trained and prepared for the world of work in the future.
I recently visited Uruguay, last week I came back, on official business, that’s a UNESCO Conference, and they have a similar programme in their schools. They have given out nearly one million lap tops to their students, so far. And I had a discussion with the Minister of Education there in Uruguay, and that country is moving by leaps and bounds in their education system with the introduction of their lap tops for all their students. So while we are working with our Secondary school students, we are also now looking actively for having possibly tablets for our Primary school students. And I have been mandated….so students, this exercise so far, has cost your parents, the tax payers, over the three years, approximately $180 million, 80 million for the first year, 50 million second year, 50 million third year but the tablets, hopefully, will be a little cheaper and we have close to 126,000 Primary school students. These Primary schools, 476, 134 of them have computer labs already, and in your 152 Secondary schools, all your Secondary schools have computer labs, some ranging from one to six, and some computer labs have up to sixty computers in them. We are increasing your connectivity from approximately 25 to 30 mega bytes, and we are now having a tender out in the Central Tenders Board to provide Wifi facilities for all the secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago, so that you’d be able to stay in your classroom and use a computer where you are. Give me about two to three months again, and hopefully most of it should be introduced into the schools.
So students, I can therefore urge you and your parents to please take care of these laptops and ensure that you use them for your educational development, yes, for your educational development, and recognise how fortunate you are to be the first generations in our nation’s history to have access to such resources from the State free of charge. Thanks to your parents, thanks to the national community who are paying the taxes for you to have this ability to have a lap top. You know students, you all very fortunate and grasp the opportunity of a free education system. You know, we have universal Primary education, all children in Primary schools go free, we have universal Secondary education, all of you who come to school free, we have universal tertiary education, all under graduate students go to university free, and now we are bringing about, finally, before the end of 2015, Universal Early Childhood Education, so that all children between ages three to five will find a place in the Early Childhood Education Centre free of charge. And we must perhaps be one of only, the only country in the world, and we are to be advised otherwise, that when we complete Universal Childhood Education, I think we will be leading the world in Universal Education, from age three to tertiary education. That’s a phenomenon students. And why are we doing this? You are the future of our nation, as the Honourable Dr. Eric Williams said, the future of our children is in your book bag. You are the future leaders of Trinidad and Tobago, future leaders of the region, future leaders of the world, and we cherish you, and this is why your Peoples Partnership Government, under the leadership of Honourable Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is ensuring that you get the best education that you could ever receive in any part of the world.
So Form One students, your Form Six students who have just won Island Scholarships are here with you, you have big shoes to fill, and for this year your Form Six counterparts have given your school great honour with their Scholarship wins.
St Mary’s College has won one Open Scholarship and Seven Additional ones and let me congratulate all of you winners at St. Mary’s College, congratulations. And let me name them—Mark Carrington—Open Scholarship winner in Mathematics. Additional Scholarship winners, Christopher Bodden for Science, Etienne Bellemare, Hugh Jacobs, Ian Forde, Levi Seukaran, Megan Munro and Mikyle Moolchan. So students, let us give a round of applause to your eight Scholarship winners.
So what a great achievement you have here at St. Mary’s College. For your wonderful students, who have impressed our nation with their dedication, with their brilliance, their diligence and their sheer will power.
They have proven that they have what it takes to one day ably guide and lead our country on a continued path of progress, innovation, productivity, discipline and prosperity, and I wish, myself and on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Honourable Prime Minister to personally applaud all of you, Scholarship winners, your teachers, your parents, your Principals. Let us congratulate all of those who have contributed to your success. And all ancillary staff who have made your life here at St. Mary’s College relatively easy and smooth.
Please continue to do the great work students to ensure that our education sector remains a beacon of hope and light for our country and as I close, I wish to remind all present that it is said that your talents, blessings and abilities are God's gift to you; these are God’s gifts you, cherish them but what you do with it, what you do with your blessings is your gift to God and to humanity.
You therefore have a sacred duty to give back to your country as so many of us are trying to do at this time. It’s a tremendous sacrifice from many of us to try to give back to our country. All of us come from very humble beginnings, most of us, and if God has been good to us, why can’t we give back to our country, and this is what many of us are doing. And so therefore, you have a duty to give back to your country, and its people in the near future. And as Martin Luther King said, the longest journey begins with a short, single step. Scholarship winners, you have just taken your first short, single step and your life’s journey begins now. And you look to see what you would want to have written about you when you are in your sixties, and as Stephen Covey says, the management guru, begin with the end in mind. See what you want for yourselves when you enter your sixties and then work towards it. It’s not going to be easy, you’re going to have many obstacles, you will stumble and fall as though you’re running a hundred meters race but you will get up, you will walk and then you will begin to run again. So students, this is a lesson for all of you. There are many obstacles in life and you will find it difficult at times, but you overcome your obstacles and hurdles, and you must be diligent in your movement forward. So, as I close, let me congratulate, first of all your Scholarship winners, let me congratulate all of your students here this morning, all the parents, your teachers, your Principal, your Vice-Principal, our School Supervisors, the Ministry of Education officials. Let me just, before ending, give you some information. In 2010, when we came into government…. in 2009, there were 280 Scholarships given, in 2010, we went to about 320, in 2011 we went to about 352 and in 2012, we have now given 374 Scholarships for our students. At a cost of another $50 million per year, so you see how much money your parents and the taxpayers are paying for you students. The Island Scholarship winners get approximately, the value of about $300,000 per year, and the Additional Scholarship winners get a value of approximately $100,000 per year, so its approximately $50 million.
Now one more thing, we have 152 Secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago, 154 Government and Government-assisted, St. Mary’s College is a Government–assisted, which is a denominational school from the Roman Catholic Church. And 152 schools write the CAPE examinations. In 2010, 21 of these schools won scholarships, in 2011, 31 schools won scholarships and in 2012, 40 schools won scholarships. Isn’t that nice, yes, that the scholarship winners are coming across all our schools in Trinidad and Tobago. It means then that the education system is being lifted across all our schools. Your SEA results have been excellent this year, better than many years in the past. And hear what the CAPE results are. Out of 3,500 students who write CAPE, approximately 93 per cent get Grades One to Five. Isn’t that marvelous? And approximately 65 per cent get Grades One to Three. And 10 per cent which is the 374, receive Scholarships. That means their performance has been excellent.
When you look at the grades, yesterday again, I was examining the grades that was given to me by the Scholarship Department, and when I look at Science, I see all the Science Scholarship winners receiving Ones, Ones, Ones, Ones in the three subjects. They received Ones in Unit and Two, no Bs in any part, and Ones in the other two subjects at “A” Levels. So it’s Ones across the board students.
And you were brilliant, the students in Trinidad and Tobago are very brilliant. Keep it up, good luck, God’s Blessings and have a wonderful day.