|Minister of Tobago Development, Dr. Delmon Baker|
Tobago’s population of about 56,000 is roughly 4.3% to 4.5% of the national population. That in effect meant Tobago should have attained at least sixteen national scholarship awardees out of the four hundred and twenty-eight instead on the three it received. Those statements were made by the Minister of Tobago Development, Dr. Delmon Baker as he highlighted how Tobago students are vastly under-performing. He said, “our system should have produced at least sixteen, just by raw numbers, by averages, unfortunately we are under-performing in that area”.
Dr. Baker indicated that he was raising an alarm bell because the under-performing is being duplicated at the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) levels. That situation he said, “puts our society fundamentally behind our counterparts in Trinidad”. Taking a line from a song by ‘Shadow What Wrong With Me’, the Minister said the question which must be asked is, “what is wrong with the education system in Tobago as to why we cannot meet our quota of scholarship students, of SEA passes and of CXC passes?”.
Dr. Baker went on to state that having recognized that unwelcomed trend, they invested a significant amount of time, energy and resources in creating the Human Capital Development Unit (HCDU) headed by the former vice-principal of Signal Hill Secondary School, Cecil Dalrymple. He said the ministry received an additional $8m to treat with matters of human capital development and skills training based on the challenges they saw in the Tobago system.
He stressed that Tobagonians must not take lightly, the fact that boys are being out-performed by girls in primary schools, secondary schools and quite often at the university level. Dr. Baker stated. “If one sector of the society out-performs the other, then the imbalances generated could redound to some serious deficiencies to the society in the long term”.
He was of the view that something must be done quickly to ensure that two things happen; the first is that young men equal the performance of their female counterparts and secondly, Tobagonians begin to catch up to their counterparts in Trinidad. Dr Baker believes that if Tobagonians are to see revenues generated from natural gas in the Tobago sector, many Tobagonians must be trained and qualified to work in career fields relating to this industry. So too must Tobagonians be ready to manage the operate the proposed CNG station for Roxborough. The Minister indicated that 70% of all Tobagonians in the labour force earn $6,000 or less a month which means that the disposable income in Tobago is very small. The entire situation must be urgently addressed he added.
“The time for political talking, naysaying and making noise in parliament or in the budget has ended. We have a serious challenge; if we do not take the bull by the horns, all of Tobago would resemble those communities in Trinidad and I need not call their names” Dr. Baker stated. He went on to say, “you have on the hills the bigshots who make over make $15,000 and $20,000 a month and at the footholes, those folks who can only get by if you give them a food card”.
The Minister was at the time speaking at a function held at the Ministry of Tobago Development were the ministry honoured Shelemiah Peterkin, Dhwane Henry and Lemuel Phillips, the only three Tobago students awarded national scholarship this year.
Shelemiah, the Presidential scholarship awardee was given $25,000 and the two young men, additional scholarship winners were given $10,000 each by the ministry.