PM – All children aged five to 16 must go to school
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar today issued a statement on her return to Trinidad and Tobago following from South Africa, in which she said there was now an increased sense of unity and purpose. The Prime Minister also announced plans to pursue legislation making the mandatory age of school enrollment 5 to 16 years, an increase from the present obligatory attendance of children between the ages of 6 to 12.
The following is the full statement –
During the past few days, we have witnessed a global celebration of the life of an iconic figure, His Excellency Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa.
Furthermore, we all witnessed a significant and promising demonstration of solidarity among world leaders.
Despite his passing, President Mandela still managed to bring disparate entities together and inspire opposing interests to acknowledge that they do in fact share common values.
Just as he led South Africa in bridging the enormous post-apartheid gap, President Mandela’s influence brought together over 90 Heads of State and Government; many of whom have conflicting political ideologies and various points of disagreement.
Even here at home, there is now an increased sense of unity and purpose.
I am sure that this, in part, has to do with citizens seeing my government, the opposition and other non-governmental organisations coming together with a common purpose.
President Mandela’s enduring legacy shall serve as a guiding light to all of us as we journey upon a road towards inclusion and respect.
But Madiba’s guiding influence is not limited to Trinidad and Tobago.
The Great Unifier also helped to strengthen regional unity right here in the Caribbean.
As Chair of the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government, I believe that this occasion has brought to the forefront the very spirit of our CARICOM union.
Prime Minister Perry Christie of the Bahamas and I have been discussing what the CARICOM can do to honour the legend that is President Nelson Mandela and so in the coming days, I will consult my colleagues in the region.
Here in Trinidad and Tobago, as has been reported, the Caribbean Airlines aircraft which took us on our safe and historic non-stop journey to and from South Africa will be named after Nelson Mandela.
Also, we will observe a day in Madiba’s honour as we continue to celebrate the incredible achievements of a man who saw us all as equals.
This is a belief that I to hold at the centre of all decisions I have to make as the leader of our Trinidad and Tobago.
I will continue to be committed to establishing a society of equal opportunity and we recognise that such an endeavour is rooted in the education of our children.
This is why I have decided to bring legislation to extend the mandatory age of school enrolment: it will now be 5 to 16 years, an increase from the present obligatory attendance of children between the ages of 6 to 12.
As we equip our future leaders with the tools to guide us into a brighter era, Mandela’s wise words again echo: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
It is also significant that the world celebrates President Mandela’s inspirational life and achievements while simultaneously recognising International Human Rights Day.
Let us not forget that every human being ought to be treated with the appropriate respect.
In closing, I wish to remind you all that, as we celebrate the life of Mandela and the many strides he made in the sphere of human rights, we too are capable of leading by example.
We too are capable of making a difference and bringing about the changes that we want to see.
We too can set aside our differences, be they political or otherwise.
As I said in South Africa, both Dr Keith Rowley, the Leader of the Opposition and I may have different political views and at times we will disagree.
But on one thing we will always agree on and that is we all want to see a better Trinidad and Tobago.
We all have the same goal!
As we move forward, let us remember that “a good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”.
May all of us, throughout the region and here at home, continue to draw inspiration from Mandela’s legacy and maximise the unlimited potential of decency, unity and love for the greater honour and glory of our country and the region.
May God bless you and may God continue to bless our great nation of Trinidad and Tobago.