ADDRESS BY: The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, S.C., MP Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago at the launch of the 2013 distribution of laptops to Form One students of the St James Secondary School.
A pleasant good afternoon to all.
Let me say how truly pleased I am to be here today at the launch of the
2013 distribution of laptops to Form One students of the St James
Secondary School, an institution known for its academic excellence and all
I wish to express my very best wishes to all students, teachers, the
principal, and other staff members of this school, for a very safe and
productive academic year ahead.
Indeed, for my Government, the new academic year started off on a
wonderful note of delivery, exemplified by today’s commencement of the
I must say having listened to the personal testimonies of students Xyra
Carty and Kerima Joseph, as well as the representative of the parents, Ms
Avion Bruce, and the teacher’s representative, Ms Lisa Alexander, my
spirits have been lifted and my heart is filled with gratitude and pride.
I say gratitude, because when I announced in 2010 that my intention upon
entering Government, was to ensure that every single child entering
secondary school would get a free laptop, critics wondered why.
They said it was a waste of money, and to this day, they question what we
have done for our education system.
Well, I say today that you, the students, parents and teachers, have
answered all the critics of this programme.
The parents say that this is a programme which allows them and their
children to grow in an intellectual capacity and interact on international
standards as our counterparts across the globe.
The students say they are provided with a wide array of information at their
fingertips, that information for projects are easier to access with this device,
that the Laptop has proven to be an essential tool in their learning, which
has significantly improved their lives.
And the teachers have testified of the benefits to the children as well as
their own benefits as well.
Today, I say I am truly heartened and indeed, vindicated by these
You see in 1999-2000, when I held the post of Minister
of Education, I had a vision, a conviction, a burning ambition to ensure that
the children of our beloved country would benefit by having free primary,
secondary, tertiary and early childhood care and education. We have a
greater opportunity to attain a better standard of living and ultimately, a
more civilized society and prosperous economy for Trinidad and Tobago.
Back then, I implemented universal free secondary school education.
The world and economies have changed—became more interconnected
and globalised by the age of technology and the Internet.
I knew that the only way to ensure that our citizens keep up and ensure
they were globally competitive and relevant in this new age, was to be on
par with these amazing technological advancements.
And so, I implemented a policy of the free laptops for all students entering
secondary schools. I am confident that this will go down in our nation’s
history as one of our greatest and most progressive policies in education.
It comes at a time when, like the rest of the developing world, our country
faces many concerns when it comes to our poverty rates. We are also
faced with a grappling crime problem among our youths.
Undoubtedly, this programme can significantly improve our education
system and socio-economic status of our citizens.
The systematic approach to improving access to the internet is also geared
at ensuring that families in all areas of Trinidad and Tobago have access to
the Internet and the wide berth of knowledge and resources it brings.
It is hoped that this will impact on alleviating the illiteracy rates of parents,
and grandparents, as well as allow people in these
families to become computer-literate and in the process.
By the end of this month, I am told that since this programme was
introduced in 2010, we would have given out 68,850 laptops to students
and an additional 4000 to teachers.
The returns on this investment will be invaluable to our nation, as, by 2015,
approximately 90,850 of you will emerge from your secondary schooling
equipped with computing and information technology skills thereby
increasing your competitiveness in an information-led global economy.
In the first year when we gave out the laptops, we rose 16 per cent in the
St Lucia is implementing a similar programme and we have signed a
Memorandum of Understanding with St Lucian Government to assist them
in developing the programme.
In addition to the provision of Laptops, the Ministry of Education has
engaged in the radical rewrite of the schools’ curriculum which resulted in
the inclusion of thematic teaching and the infusion of ICT.
A critical success factor of this new and enhanced schools’ curriculum will
be the availability of technology at schools, both within classrooms for the
students and at the administrative offices. To this end we have delivered:
* Training to 8671 Teachers in Digital Literacy;
* 3000 Laptops to our Secondary Schools’ Teachers;
* 469 Laptops to our Primary Schools’ Principals;
* 138 Laptops to our Secondary Schools’ Principals;
* 52 Laptops to our School Supervisors; and
* Within the next 6 weeks we will complete distribution of Audio Visual equipment to all Primary schools comprising:
* 500 – 55 inches Smart Televisions;
* 500 – interactive multimedia projectors; and
* 500 – Radios / CD players.
Further, there are ongoing operations of 126 laboratories at our Secondary
Schools and we are currently working to ensure laboratories are
commissioned at the remaining secondary schools, as well as 295
laboratories at our Primary Schools. I am advised that the remaining
Primary Schools will be outfitted with laboratories during the next academic
We have provided internet services in 128 Secondary Schools and 272
Primary Schools to date.
This service will complement the use of the laptops and laboratories and
exposes our nation’s teachers and students to an unlimited repository of
resources and information.
We have recruited 124 ICT Technicians who are assigned to Secondary
Schools throughout the country.
These ICT Technicians also provide repair services to an average of 3
Primary Schools and maintain all of the ICT equipment that we have
implemented and will continue to implement in the near future.
The results, of course, have been promising; with more students are now
doing IT at the CSEC level and CAPE level with better academic
To my Government, education remains one of the pillars of progress and
sustainability that will always get priority and proper investment. American
President Franklin D Roosevelt once said,
“The school and our children are the last expenditure upon which a country
should be willing to economize,” and I wish to re-emphasise today that one
area we will always ensure has full support is the education sector.
And so, as I close, let me remind all once more to take full advantage of
these laptops, your learning tools, and the opportunities which my
Government is providing for you.
Please ensure principal, teachers students, parents and members of the
community that you demonstrate to us that our major investment in your
lives give us positive returns, and that one day, our country will have
attained through your making proper use of these opportunities, the state of
greatness and progress we know we’re capable of achieving.
I look forward to hearing great achievements of this school in the very near
future, and I say to you students that we you are the ones governing this
country, for your turn will come one day, always remember the investment
that we made in your development as a Government, and be thus inspired
to do the same for the children who will be under your protection.
May God bless us all, and May God continue to bless this great nation,
Trinidad and Tobago.
I thank you.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2013