Closing Remarks, Dr Kris Rampersad Chair, National Commission for UNESCO, at
Leading for Literacy Now! National Workshop for Principals and Teachers
Sister Francis Xavier Heritage Hall, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain
August 25 2013
One of the advantages in living in a place like Trinidad and Tobago is that we have easy access and exposure to the good books of the many and varied cultures, ethnicities and religions that make up our society.
One of our good books tells us that the world was created in six days.
We have come to the sixth day of this our week-long efforts to begin to recreate and transforming our world, the communities and the spaces and the schools we occupy, as Leaders for Literacy, Now!
Do we feel more empowered? Do we feel better prepared and better tooled? We, of the National Commission for UNESCO of Trinidad and Tobago, and our project partners, the Ministry of Education, BMobile and the UK-Based National Training College for School Leadership and the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment hope that we have met and fulfilled some of those expectations that we outlined at the beginning of this week and when this training preparation began with you earlier this year and with us since last year.
We thank you for investing your time and energies and visions with us, and now we have some expectations of our own. We want results and returns on this investment – not just the more than half a million dollars UNESCO and the Ministry of Education with our project partners are investing in this, but also in the energies and ideas we have shared and exchanged.
We well recognise that many of you function under very challenge personal and professional situations. We well recognise that the tasks with which you are charged as principals and teachers are by no means easy. We well recognise that sometimes the diversity of our society demands constant readjustments to varying expectations.
But we want to challenge you now to go forth and reclaim your places as bonafide community leaders. For too long the term, and the role of leaders in our communities have been hijacked by not too savoury elements who are being held up as the role models for our youths and children. For too long we have watched our children being kidnapped by forces and influences that we wanted to think were beyond our control. For too long the schoolmaster and mistress who were once significant and pivotal axes of social life in our villages and districts, have either abdicated their roles or been forced out of them by other social pressures. For too long we have been held to ransom by bandits and criminals in the guise of leaders and social and community leaders.
We ask you now to go back and reclaim those spaces; to see yourself and to present and represent yourselves as the leaders that you are. To put your hands up proudly when there are calls for meetings and discussions and consultations with community leaders and say that you are leaders in your community.
We ask you that you return to your schools to no longer cower before bullying parents and misguided children and take charge!
We ask you to use what you have learnt here to, as I said at the opening, not just influence the directions of our education system and by extension of our society, but to transform it.
You are the community leaders. You are agents of change and transformation.
It is no secret that we live in not just interesting, as Confucius is said to have said, but also in challenging times; times that demand all our energies and intelligence to manage the winds of change that are blowing and that all of us are feeling in our schools and in our districts. We need to manage these changing times so we do not have the negative repercussions as we are witnessing taking place in Egypt and Syria and elsewhere. We need to direct and redirect the changes that are inevitable, drawing from your own wisdom and experiences to positively impact our youth and harness their restless energies for change.
It certainly will require a few qualities that cannot be learnt in a classroom – open-mindedness, flexibility, and patience – but we do hope that this classroom has provided you with some formulas by which you can assess and understand how to acquire and cull those qualities.
As the same good book said, on the seventh, the Creator rested. I don’t think that meant that for you, not for us.
Tomorrow, we go on our drill with the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment which is promising us through the Army Leadership Training Centre, a one-day outdoor team-building and risk training exercise to what you already know and have learnt of leadership.
Like us at the National Commission, the Army Leadership Training personnel recognise that this is particularly important in the dynamic environment in which you find yourself working everyday in our schools. They acknowledge your role as principal and educator as paramount in carving and manipulation this chameleon environment in which you function, in dealing with students and staff and parents from all walks of life and with varying morals, values, and social skills that require some extra special skills to help you cope with situations where the answers may either be nowhere in sight, or just under your nose; where the success of the team will not depend on the strength of any one individual or where achieving overall success may depend on the subordination of personal objectives.
So that’s the task of the seventh day, tomorrow – not to rest, but as the ones created for the task, to continue the good work to go forth and multiply these learnings into your schools and communities. To Lead for Literacy, Now!
Because we all know what the power of literacy is. We are all living examples of that – of how our ability to read and to interpret a line, a page, a book can transform how we see ourselves, how we view others and how to make informed and intelligent choices when confronted with difficult options, or no options at all. That has been my experience as a reader, from districts and schools and homes just like the ones you serve.
And it is our sense of personal responsibility that has inspired my Leaves of Life drive for a revolution in reading, to inspire reading in unorthodox ways; and it is the sense of collective responsibility that inspired Mrs Crouch and our team of the National Commission, and the Ministry of Education in planning and organising this Leading for Literacy, Now! We are building a team and I am sure too an army, for change.
We envision that in the forty schools from which you were drawn, voluntarily, we will begin to see results in learning and literacy – in the ability of our children to read as early as the end of the first term – by December, yes December 2013 – we all know that three months is a very long time in the life of a child and they can learn much in such a short space of time. Are we ready for that! We must claim their minds and imaginations before someone else does.
We also envision that from forty districts in Trinidad and Tobago, we will begin to see an impact on perceptions and beliefs of who are our real community leaders; who are really in charge; and to whom our society should turn when it needs advice and directions and leadership. You! Are we ready for that?
As we promised at the beginning, we will continue to encourage you to not only keep up the dialogue, but translate it into actions within your own spheres and share it with your peers, in other schools and districts as we assess the outcomes of this and get ready to draw in more of our principals and teachers and children as we have been mandated by the Minister of Education.
Yes, we were very serious when we titled this Leading for Literacy, Now! Let as take back our communities; let us take back our children, as leaders, Now!
I thank you.
PHOTO CAPTION: Mrs Elizabeth Crouch, Principal of Marina Regina Prep School and head of the education sector committee of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO lead principals, school supervisors and teachers in the joint UNESCO/Ministry of Education initiative Leading for Literacy Now! Photo Courtesy Kris Rampersad