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Thank God I'm Finally Free!"
Tick, Tock. Tick, Tock...I patiently listened as the wheels of the clock turned; it was like a ringing in my ear. My eyes panned across the room at the other faces of innocence. All were sound asleep. I took one final look at the clock above the doorpost. It was already half past eight. Realizing that I was running out of time, I silently slipped out from under the sheets.
Mathematics, Art and Design, and Family and Consumer
Science are the three Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) subjects that have an improved
letter grade, Minister of Education the Hon Desmond Bannister said.
“The improvement in Mathematics is one which we are most pleased to note and hope that this trend will continue,” Mr Bannister said during a press conference at the Scholarship and Educational Loan Division office, Thursday, August 5.
Nassau, The Bahamas --
Mathematics, Art and Design, and Family and Consumer Science are the
three Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) subjects that have an improved
letter grade, Minister of Education the Hon Desmond Bannister said.
"The improvement in Mathematics is one which we are most pleased to
note and hope that this trend will continue," Mr Bannister said during
a press conference at the Scholarship and Educational Loan Division
office, Thursday, August 5.
But General Science, Craft Study and Technical Drawing are the three
subjects, which show a decline in performance, while English Language,
Health Science, Social Studies and Religious Studies are the four
subjects that remained the same as in 2009, he explained...
Hello! My name is Jerry. My life, to say the least, is spectacular right now.
I have a stunning wife and seven little ones running around. Though I'm hoping to have 12 kids in total, seven isn't too bad for a rat of only one year, right? Well, hopefully my new residence will improve my chances. It's this delightful little heap of garbage some friends at work were discussing one day. "It's right there and open!" and "Prime real estate, I say!" were some of their remarks.
Sweeting's Cay, Bahamas - Education Minister, the Hon. T. Desmond Bannister
on Friday past made a special trip to Sweeting's Cay, Grand Bahama
where he saluted the outstanding achievements of students from the Sweeting's
Cay All Age School.
parents and students during a special Prize Giving and Graduation Ceremony
held at St. Michael's Anglican Church, the Minister also took note
of the overall improvements nationwide in the 2009/2010 national examinations
saying that his Ministry and the country has reason to celebrate...
Excellence does not come on a whim. It is not grown on trees or captured in a bottle. It is through toil and labor that it is sown and at the end of a strenuous season the rich fruit it produces is the best reward. The reward for 100-plus students from around the country was recognition at the Ministry of Education Examination and Assessment Division's 19th Annual national awards presentations.
Students from public and private schools were celebrated for their achievements in the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) and the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams.
Best of the best honors went to Sarah Jagessar, a graduate of Temple Christian High School. She achieved nine A grades and one B grade in the BGCSEs.
Mikell Butler, a graduate of C.V. Bethel High School, had the best overall performance in the BGCSE examinations in regards to public schools, with her achievement of seven A grades and two B grades.
Brennan Williams of North Eleuthera High was named best male performer and overall performer from the public schools for his BJC results. He achieved seven A grades and one B grade in the BJCs.
Kathie-Lee Petsch, a student of N.G.M. Major High School on Long Island, attained seven A grades and one B grade, and was awarded co-winner of the best BJC results from the public schools.
Selandia Toote, a 10th grade student at Queen's College, received the best overall performance in the BJCs from the independent school sector.
Toote said being recognized for her academic achievements was a wonderful feeling, but she was surprised she got the best exam results nationwide. She knew she had gotten the best results in her school.
"I knew I got the best results for the BJCs in my school, but I did not expect that I would win for the entire country," said Toote. "It was a marvelous feeling and I really worked hard so I am glad it did pay off."
In addition to her plaques and trophies Toote also was the recipient of a new laptop, which she couldn't stop smiling about. She said it was her first personal computer. She was speechless when she was awarded with it.
Jagessar, Butler, Brennen, Petsch and Toote were among more than 100 over-achievers recognized for achieving five A's and above in their national examinations.
The event also put the spotlight on individual schools and their achievements in raising their overall grade point averages and preparing students better across the board, so they do even better in national examinations.
T.A. Thompson ninth-grade student Jewel Sturrup, who attended the event, says she was inspired to aim even higher when she sits her BJCs in another few months, because she too wanted to be recognized nationally. Seeing her school win third place in career and technical education studies, and friends from other schools shine, really made her want to study harder so that she can have her chance to walk across the stage with her head held high.
"I am so proud of my friends who did so well and could be a part of the ceremony. I am looking forward to doing just as well when my time comes because I want to be one of the honorees too. I intend to work harder and finish my schoolwork even better. Just being here inspires me," said the student.
It was with the hope of shedding new light on the achievements and good work of students that the award ceremony was established almost two decades ago, said Pamela Moultrie, Language Arts subject officer in the assessment and evaluation team at the Ministry of Education. She said it is important to highlight students who work hard and achieve, because too often the youth are painted with the same brush of negativity when the majority are still on the right track.
"We hope to inspire students to excel not only academically, but in other areas as well. We hope with this kind of impetus we are assisting students in working harder so they can be prepared for tertiary and other forms of higher education. It is also hoped that the awards will motivate those students who are struggling or who are too lax in their efforts to work harder. With these award ceremonies we are saying to all students who didn't do as well that they too can excel," she says.
The students were also encouraged by Minister of Education Desmond Bannister not to settle for the achievements they made, but to continue to work hard. He told them it was not only important to be a leader academically but socially as well, and that they should be caring citizens and strive to use their talents to uplift everyone. He applauded individual scholars like Brennan Williams of North Eleuthera High for his passion to prevent animal cruelty, Mikell Butler of C.V. Bethel Senior School for her dream of starting a mentoring program for senior school students, and James Boyce of Forest Heights Academy for his environmental spirit.
Candis-Amber Petty, a former student of H.O. Nash Junior School who is currently a student at C.R. Walker Senior School, was recognized for her academic achievements in the 2013 Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examinations at the 12th Northwestern District Thanksgiving Awards and Recognition Ceremony.She was graded at A grades for the eight exams she sat (and finished in a three-way tie for the best BJC results with Dana Knowles from N.G.M. High School, Long Island, and Margaret Albury Higgs from Forest Heights, an independent school out of Abaco). Candis-Amber tied with Dana for the best results by government school students. She also had the best results by a New Providence student.C.R. Walker students Oneisa Lundy achieved seven A grades and one C grade, and Lheintz Vincent achieved five A grades, two B grades and one C grade.Candis-Amber was also among a number of students honored, including the students who were recognized for having the highest grade point averages in their respective Northwestern District schools during the 2012/2013 school year: Chardonay Garrick, Albury Sayle Primary (3.70); Destiny Smith, Gambier Primary (3.44); Mandria Brown, Mable Walker Primary (3.46); Jada Culmer, Oakes Field Primary (4.00); Shavanti Farrington, Stephen Dillet Primary (3.55); Yolanda Erhabor, T.G. Glover Primary (3.64); Alda Arne, Woodcock Primary (3.50); Phlesea McPhee, H.O. Nash Junior (3.60); Shantinique Miller, T.A. Thompson Junior (3.60); Randy Roberts, C.C. Sweeting Senior (3.30); Beautisca King, C.R. Walker (3.80); Janoah Saunders, Centre for the Deaf (3.55); Tarvis Cooper, Stapledon School (3.55); Tyrone Woods, Naomi Blatch Pre-School; Korey Christie, and Thalia Cartwright from Willard Patton Pre-School.During the ceremony, Director of Education Lionel Sands told the students that no students are disposable in the pursuit of academic excellence. He said that while many students are succeeding academically, there was a minority being left behind for various reasons.Sands told the students that he was inspired by the successful students being recognized at the ceremony held at Living Waters Kingdom Ministries and that he believed that every child should be given the opportunity to fulfill their purpose.
The education director also addressed school administrators and told them that the practice of indefinite suspensions would be eradicated from public schools, as officials at the Ministry of Education were discovering that too many students were being suspended for frivolous infractions, something he said was unacceptable.C.C. Sweeting Senior School was highlighted for a second place outstanding performance by government schools in career and technical education and having the most improved grade point average in government schools in the BJC exams.In the innovation in schools category, all 14 schools in the district were recognized for introducing a new program which enhanced their teaching and learning programs -- The Centre for the Deaf for mainstreaming two students at H.O. Nash Junior School who are preparing to sit the BJC examination in June 2014; Naomi Blatch Pre-School for its thematic approach to learning; Stapledon School for its agriculture and beauty programs and Albury Sayle for its focus on literacy.The two most coveted prizes for overall performances in the district, The Harriet Pratt Quality Award and the Valderine Rumer Award for Academic Excellence went to Oakes Field Primary School. The school has won both awards for five consecutive years.Director of Youth in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Darren Turnquest, who also spoke at the ceremony, told students that they were all accountable for their actions and that they have to realize that bad decisions have consequences. He advised them to have a positive attitude, brand themselves as priceless and remember that popularity does not matter.Turnquest told the teachers that their job is to motivate students even though they have the hardest job that anyone can do in The Bahamas. He also told parents that their job is to participate in their children's education. During the ceremony, Shirley Barr, the former principal of Naomi Blatch Primary School was honored for 51 years of service in education. Deborah Coleby, a former vice principal at Woodcock Primary School and Wilfred Butler, former senior master at C.C. Sweeting Senior School were recognized for their service to the district. Pastor Sharon Nairn who counseled students, organized a breakfast program, and supported students in the shacks during their Junior Junkanoo preparations was recognized for her philanthropy in the district schools. Students receiving awards in the extracurricular activities category included Travis Robinson, C.R. Walker Senior School (Junior. Minister of Tourism); Aradhana Gilbert, C.R. Walker Senior School (Laws of Life Essay); Laquann Nairn, C. R. Walker Senior School (Carifta Games gold and silver medalist);Brackiel Henry, T. A. Thompson Junior School (District Spelling Bee champion); Sydney Clarke, H.O. Nash Junior School (Jr. tennis champion);Trovonya Thompson, H.O. Nash Junior School (Arts and Drama, National Arts Festival); and Saquan Miller (bronze medalist, water polo, CARIFTA).
When Jodi Cornish, a 16-year-old student from the Stapledon School for the Mentally Challenged walked up to collect his award for receiving an A-grade in the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examination in Art, it was a moment he would remember for the rest of his life.
His achievement may not seem all that amazing to anyone else but for him it was a defining moment in his life, because it's something that made him stand out from his peers -- if only for a moment.
Cornish was one of over 20 students rewarded for their academic achievement during the 10th annual thanksgiving and recognition ceremony for schools in the northwestern district of New Providence.
"I was really happy when I got a reward," said Cornish. "I worked hard. It felt nice to be [recognized] for my work and my school."
The ceremony which was held at the Living Waters Kingdom Ministries, Warren Street, Oakes Field, not only celebrated student accomplishment but also the efforts and achievements of schools and members of the community.
For students like Carly Elisee, Shakera Gibson and Randeika Foulkes, former H.O. Nash students awarded for receiving five A-grades or more in the BJC, being recognized is not something that happens everyday despite how hard they work, so they were honored after going unnoticed for so long. They said it really made everything seem worthwhile.
"I have since moved from H.O. Nash Junior School where I achieved six BJC awards and I am now at St. John's College," said Foulkes.
So while I was busy focusing on my new course of study it was nice to know my work in junior school was recognized in such a big way. I was personally proud of getting all A-grades, particularly in Math which is not my strongest subject. I am glad for this award ceremony, it is really a good motivator."
Elisee, who has since been awarded a scholarship to Kingsway Academy because of his good grades (five A grades and two C grades) said being awarded served as an inspiration to him and his peers. He said constant praise and assistance keeps him motivated to do more in his studies. He also said it was a refreshing homecoming to be able to speak with his former schoolmates and share in a moment of recognition with them.
The students of the year for the 15 schools in the northwestern district were also recognized for their hard work.
They were Aliah Johnson from Willard Patton pre-school; Riann Bethel of Albury Sayle primary; Christopher Fernander from Gambier primary; Kathianna Toby of Naomi Blatch primary; Jade Marshall of Oakes Filed primary; Georgina Mackey of Stephen Dillet primary; Ariannah Bain of T.G. Glover primary; Dwayna Archer of Woodcock primary; Kyle Dean of the Center for the Deaf; Cornish; Meko Pinder of H.O. Nash junior; Emmanuel Petite of T.A. Thompson junior; Kermit Ferguson of C.C. Sweeting senior and Aradhana Gilbert of C.R. Walker senior.
Never giving up and appreciating the small things is what Gilbert keeps in mind when she focuses on her studies.
She said she was glad she always kept that in mind because it led to her academic success and being among the few recognized at the event. She hoped the ceremony would serve to encourage other students who didn't make it this year to keep on striving so that they too can be recognized for academic excellence.
Although the award ceremony aimed to highlight outstanding students it also celebrated the school's achievements and individual community members who make a difference.
Howard Newbold, the northwest district superintendent said it was just as important to recognize and encourage the institutions and people who work tirelessly to uplift students because without them, success is not possible.
Schools were awarded based on the five pillars of excellence which included academics, attendance, sports, culture and parental involvement.
Oakes Field primary had the most outstanding in academics for the primary schools, T.A. Thompson for junior schools and C.R. Walker for senior schools.
Oakes Field primary also took home the top award for attendance. The Centre for the Deaf was awarded for best attendance among special schools.
The most outstanding school in sports award was given to Albury Sayle primary for primary schools, H.O. Nash for junior schools and C.R. Walker for senior schools.
The school with the best culture in the primary division was Stephen Dillet and for senior schools was C.R. Walker.
The overall school with the best parental involvement based on the national report card day collection percentages was Oakes Field primary school.
The overall winner of the Harriet Pratt quality school award was Oakes Field primary due to their excellence in the majority of the categories.
Community members were also recognized at the ceremony for their work in education and they were Emeline Lockhart, a teacher for 43 years and a former office administrator for the northwest district; Keith Wisdom, director of affairs at Cable Bahamas and Valderine Rumer, a retired teacher, principal and district superintendent with the Ministry of Education.
Dreams are bigger than the problems that try to disillusion you. This is the belief of 14-year-old Kathie-Lee Petsch, a tenth grade student at N.G.M. Major High School in Long Island. The over-achiever, who was recognized at the Ministry of Education's annual national awards presentation for the best overall performance by a female student in the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) in the public schools, with seven A and two B grades, said hard work and perseverance are the things she lives by when it comes to her education.
Kathie-Lee chalks up her incredible drive to the loving memory of her father, Andreas Petsch, a German electrical engineer who was murdered when she was just 15 months old.
Although she never got to know her dad she feels that her academic achievements make him proud and she hopes to keep doing her best.
Even though he's not actively in her life, she still believes she is connected to her father and inherited his passion and love for education. In her dad's memory, the student with the best BJC results in Math and Science at North Long Island High School are presented with an award. Petsch has proudly presented the award to a deserving student for the past four years.
To get to where she is academically, Kathie-Lee understands the value of time management and takes advantage of opportunities.
"I did not get where I am overnight," said the honor roll student. "It's about working hard and being consistent. It's about balance and time management. It's about making goals and sticking to them. I am not saying it's not always going to be hard to stay on top, but it's important to do the extra work even when you don't have to, so you don't get overwhelmed."
Her method for studying effectively is to find a quiet corner in any given environment (preferably her home) and tackle her most intense subjects like Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Mathematics and English first. Then she relaxes and catches up on subjects that are easier for her like Spanish and Commerce. She has a strict evening schedule that she adheres to after school so that she does not lose her focus or fall behind in her studies.
Kathie-Lee also believes in always challenging herself and not getting comfortable even if she attains a goal. Even though she did well in her BJC's and received A grades in English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Health Science, General Science, Religious Knowledge and Technical Drawing, and a B grade in Art and Design, she said that does not distract her. She's upping the ante as she aims for a perfect 4.0 grade point average. It's currently 3.39.
"I know I am capable of getting a 4.0 grade point average, so I am looking forward to really showing that I can. I am currently still getting used to my new courses and I am sure in no time I will do what I set out to do."
She said she really needs to keep up her grades if she wants to get into a good university and make her dream of becoming a pediatric psychologist a reality.
Determination and persistence is only one of the key ingredients to Kathie-Lee's recipe for success. Her familial support system which she feels is unshakeable is also key. She's an only child, but she lives in a home with five other people, including her mother, Lucinda Petsch and aunts Janetta and Dezerine Cooper, grandmother Rowena Cooper and an eight-year-old cousin Deneshia Johnson. She says their presence gives her the sense of home and support that makes her comfortable and relaxed enough to study her best.
"My mother is especially very supportive of me and is always interested in what I am doing or studying. She ensures she knows exactly what is going on and if I don't know something she helps me. If she can't help, she ensures she gets me the resources so I can learn and do my best."
While she strives to do her best academically, Kathie-Lee says she also knows that there is much more to life and to being a good student than simply cramming her mind with facts and equations. She also values extra-curricular activities and makes time to have fun. She is active in the Governor General Youth Awards Program and has gotten the bronze and silver medals of achievement. She is also part of the Bahamas Youth Network -- a Christian-focused group that focuses on community services. To enhance her Spanish-speaking skills she also joined Club Bajamar and hopes to travel to Cuba during the Easter break to make use of what she's learned. She also ensures she keeps her focus on God in all that she does in being a member of her church's (Church of God the Bight) youth and young adult group, the Family Training Hour. The smart student even takes time out to be a part of the peer tutoring program in her school, which encourages academically-gifted students to assist those who are struggling with their work.
"I think it's very important to be active in things other than my schoolwork. Being in numerous activities forces me to manage my time better," she says. "I also am useful to my community and make myself more well-rounded [because] being in numerous clubs also looks good on my college resume. Besides you do need to relax sometimes, learn new things and just have fun."
Her advice to all students who wish to excel is to always continue to strive for excellence in all they do. She says achieveing perfect A grades is always great, but said it is not right to judge what others can do to what you know you are capable of. If your best grade is a C or a B, then she said you should do your best to achieve those grades. As long as you work as hard as you can, she said knowing that you could not have given anything more -- whatever achievement -- should make you proud.
"I understand that not everyone is the same and what is easy for me is hard for others or the other way around. I always advise others to do what is best for them and work as hard as they can. If you need help get it, but the real key to all of this is doing what you personally can and continuing to challenge yourself. Do not procrastinate when it comes to your work, and it never hurts to ask questions. No one knows everything, so as long as you remember that you will not only do well but you will be the best that you can be."
Being smart really pays off as evidenced by a handful of students that got the opportunity to get up close and personal with Prince Harry on his recent visit to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II. While thousands of students can say that they saw him, it's those smart kids that can say they spoke to the prince or shook his hand.
Fifteen-year-old Queen's College student, Selandia Toote, was the first person to greet the young royal as soon he disembarked his flight. She was charged with presenting him with a floral bouquet.
The tenth grade student was selected to present the prince with flowers because she got the best grades in the last Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examinations -- eight A-grades and one B-grade.
Although a simple gesture, that was over in the blink of an eye, it was an honor Selandia said she will never forget.
"When I was told I would see Prince Harry I wasn't sure how to feel. Eventually I was very happy and excited. It was a one in a million experience and I will definitely not forget it. It was very exhilarating," she said. "I was so nervous when he got off the plane because I was tasked to give him flowers and be the first person he met. It didn't sink in how important all of this was until I was there in front of the plane as he was coming down. He told me thank you for the flowers and that he appreciated them. I was then led to the end of a long line of government ministers who were also there to meet and greet the prince. I then got a chance to actually touch the prince as well when he shook my hand. I was so excited."
If she had gotten the opportunity to spend more time with Prince Harry, she said she would have liked to engage him in conversation and take a photograph with him.
Selandia said she would have questioned him on what it was like to be a prince, and whether it was anything like what she reads in stories. Being able to ask him trivial questions about himself like his height and favorite everyday things, she said, would have really made her year.
"I felt that I was special to be able to shake his hand. Few people get that chance to do that or even be in close proximity. I am glad I did so well in my BJCs. I would tell other students to strive to do their best and don't settle. To do above and beyond. Aim for 100 percent and don't waste time. Chances like these don't happen everyday and you never know what opportunities may come your way due to your hard work."
Even though her time with the prince was very brief, she said she still has a story to tell her children and grandchildren in the future.
Anna meets the prince
Forest Heights Academy seventh grade student, Anna Albury truly knows the value of working hard and seeing it pay off. The blind 12-year-old who was named the 2011 primary school student of the year, not only spoke at a youth rally in honor of Prince Harry, but unlike Selandia, she got to sit and have a conversation with him as well. She said the experience was remarkable and anticipated she would never forget her moments with the prince.
"At first when I was told I would meet the prince it was so overwhelming. My mom and dad just came home one day and told me I may want to sit down to hear what they had to say. She then told me I would be speaking at a youth rally in New Providence in a month or so. I was excited about that but then when she told me it would be in front of Prince Harry as well, I was overjoyed."
She said she prepared to speak to the thousands that would be in the Thomas A. Robinson Stadium for weeks. Her excitement increased when she was informed that there was a chance the prince would sit in the same row she would sit in at the rally. It wasn't until she was on the stage and sat down that she realized Prince Harry was sitting right next to her.
"It was so exciting. What I will remember the most is about how genuine Prince Harry really was. He was not stuffy or just being polite. He really was interested in talking to me about myself and finding out a bit about my life. It was so interesting. He could've just sat there and said nothing and he didn't even have to stand up to greet me. But he did and it was so amazing. Although I couldn't see him I could tell so much about him from those few moments. He's tall, kind and a genuinely nice person. I will truly never forget my time with the prince."
The most special thing of all to young Anna was that Prince Harry congratulated her after her five-minute speech. After he gave his, he turned to her and asked her opinion on his two-minute performance as well. It was a small moment that may not have meant a lot to other people but it meant the world to her.
"I am so glad I worked so hard in school. If I hadn't done so well I would not have been there on the stage next to Prince Harry. Because of this wonderful experience I would definitely tell other students to stay in school, further their education and those who have disabilities don't let them hold you back. Challenges and obstacles will come but be determined to overcome them, she said.
And true to fashion like most young girls who at some point or other all believe in fairytales, Anna said she playfully entertained thoughts of being whisked away and marrying Prince Harry.
J'Quianne gets a once-in-a-lifetime experience
J'Quianne Lowe, an eleventh grade student from San Salvador High School only expected to get a far-off glance of Prince Harry. An hour before the youth rally she was informed that Prince Harry at one point would sit next to her in the bleachers.
"I didn't expect to be able to experience seeing the prince like that at all. Not many people can say the prince sat next to them and spoke to them for a while. spoke to me and a few other students about things that interested him. He told me about his favorite sport -- polo, and asked me about our athletes and things we do. He spoke about his trip to Eleuthera and how nice he thought the Bahamian people were. It was nice."
The "well-rounded" student who represented her school, said her trip New Providence was half paid for by her school said she was glad she made the trip to the capital.
"I was so happy. I will not forget this," said J'Quianne.
New Providence must "transform" its housing and agricultural policies if it wishes for the local farming industry to survive, according to a top Ministry of Agriculture official.
In an interview with Guardian Business, Assistant Director of Agriculture Dr. Kenneth Richardson addressed the challenges facing local agriculture while outlining the industry's untapped potential as food costs and demand soar.
Richardson felt that there was a strong demand in New Providence for highly perishable crops, including kale, arugula and sweet potatoes, which could all be cultivated locally.
"When you think of the market in New Providence, you're talking about large hotels like Atlantis, Baha Mar, which is coming on stream, the tourist industry," said Richardson.
"There are a lot of more exotic vegetable crops that there is a market for. I think that New Providence could play an important role in producing these crops for these specialty markets."
However, another Ministry of Agriculture employee felt that government permits and inspections, along with cutbacks to educational programs, were "killing" small farmers. Despite this, the employee added that value-added tax (VAT) could contain a silver lining for the industry by encouraging small-scale farming on the island as the cost of imported produce increases.
Although local farms have diminished, Richardson cited the efforts of Double R Bananas and Pineapples as a positive example of farming on the island. The five-acre farm, located off of Bacardi Road, primarily produces bananas and onions, in addition to pineapples, pumpkins, and other crops with minimal use of pesticides.
Speaking with Guardian Business, Double R owner Roland Evans claimed that the farm was capable of producing 75-100 tons of onions every four-month harvest and was looking to expand into other highly perishable crops.
Evans claimed that the government needed to increase its support of local farms and revise its policies to allow construction of residences on farmland to reduce theft.
While Evans acknowledged that Andros remained ideal for agriculture in The Bahamas due to the availability of land, he agreed that there was substantial room for development in New Providence if local farmers learned from developments at the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI).
While Richardson supported the development of BAMSI, he felt that logistical issues with crop transport would require New Providence to remain an integral hub within the industry.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with setting up BAMSI there in North Andros," said Richardson. "That's ideal, but I think that some of the things that they are going to attempt to do there may best be done here because New Providence has farmers that have to be served, as well as the family islands."
BAMSI, which aims to develop the agricultural sector by providing theoretical and practical training in agricultural and business skills to Bahamians, is expected to open in September. The government is expected to spend $100 million on the project.
Richardson claimed that The Bahamas needs to "transform the kind of agriculture we do in New Providence and to also transform the kind of housing developments we have here in New Providence because urban sprawl cannot continue".
"The closer the crop is from the ground to the table, the fresher it is," said Richardson, arguing that shipping costs and crop losses through post-harvest handling could be significantly minimized through local farming efforts.
While the Gladstone Road Agricultural Center (GRAC) has successfully demonstrated that highly perishable produce can be grown in New Providence, the center remains strapped for funding and government support.
"We have to have more vision," said Richardson, and stressed the importance of educational programs in developing farming on the island, suggesting that the country offer "at least a BJC or even a BGCSE" in agriculture.
"One of the reasons why we don't get young people into farming is because they see it as hard work, out in the sun, and they see it as something that people do when they can't do anything else," said Richardson.
"The policy makers, we ourselves... have been perpetuating that myth."
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham presented the 2011/2012 Budget Communication to Parliament on Wednesday, May 25, 2011, announcing a budget whose major emphasis is jobs and skills development.
$25 million for the National Job Readiness and Training Programme - targeting 3,000 Bahamians for paid skills training for up to 1 year.
200 job openings in the Public Sector (100 for college graduates, 50 for high school graduates with BGCSEs and 50 for high school graduates with only BJCs)
Subsidies to private sector companies that hire unemployed persons.
Civil servant Increments to be paid and salary scales opened.
Small & Medium Sized business exempt from Business License Fees through 2012.
$1.5 million for the Jump Start Programme - Providing up to $7,500 to persons aged 30 and over to start their own businesses.
Duty reductions on food items.
Click HERE to download the entire Budget Communication [PDF, 93 pages, 292KB]
Position: Owner of Ocean Pearl Resort & Diamond Sunrise Restaurant and Bar
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector?
Doris: Being an ambassador for my country has always been a part of my life. As a former athlete, I have been recognized in softball and track and field, and talking and selling my country is something that is very natural for me. My taste for tourism began at an early age, when I had to present a tourism related project for my BJC exam. This peaked my interest and upon completion of high school I applied for a government assistance grant for tourism related projects. Ocean Pearl (a 10-room resort in High Rock, Grand Bahama) was opened in the year 2000. Ocean Pearl caters to domestic and international visitors and is a community and culture focused operation. In 2009, I founded the High Rock Fishing Association Tournament, a community event geared at garnering greater community involvement with the residents.
Getting the local community involved in wholesome activity is very important, as the culture of the people can be shared. Cultural tourism is also important to our community. Some of the things we were also able to accomplish include refurbishing the boat ramp used by both locals and visitors alike and the most recent honoring of all senior citizens last year.
GB: Why did you chose tourism as a career?
Doris: I really didn't choose this as a career, but stumbled into it as I saw an opportunity to own my own business and show others the beauty of my settlement and all that is has to offer. I decided, with this land on the beach, why not use it to show my own people what can be done? If I can please my own people, it would be a plus pleasing visitors. Today I own and operate Ocean Pearl Resort, Diamond Sunrise Restaurant, and Sapphire Tours, which specializes in fishing excursions.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Doris: My most memorable moment occurred in 2003. A visitor from New York came down for a week. It was obvious that he was going through personal issues, and as a result of our engagement, I was able to recommend to him some of the places to visit to find relaxation. He shared that no one ever took the time to ensure his well being and be so genuine. He said that after many walks on the beach based on my recommendation, he found solace and peace. He said that what I had was a gold mine, and as I shared with him my expansion plans, he immediately said he wanted to be a part of it. Upon his return to the United States, he wired funds to my account to aid in the building of my restaurant. To this day his family and mine remain very close friends, and as a result, he has sent other family members and friends to Ocean Pearl. When we dedicated and opened the Diamond Sunrise Restaurant, it was in his honor.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career?
Doris: Yes and no. Visitors are more discerning and savvy - they expect an experience and want to understand and appreciate hands-on the culture of the community. I think gone are the days of people wanting to stay for long periods of time in the mega hotels. There is a demand for that - but I feel the desire for that one-on-one experience is far greater. Technology has allowed the flow of information to change perceptions. That can help or hurt depending on the experience. The visitors still expects an experience that they can remember.
GB: What does The Bahamas need to focus on to stay competitive?
Doris: The Bahamas needs to focus on the smaller properties in support of the unique product that is offered. There are many challenges that smaller operations face financially and with the marketing of their businesses. I think if there is more support in these areas. We can attract more visitors to our shores.
GB: What advice would you give a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
Doris: My advice would be to forewarn them that this is not a 9-5 undertaking! You have to love what you do, you have to have charisma, you have to love people and be personable. You have to have a lot of energy and be able to communicate well. I can say if you have all of these qualities, tourism will choose you without you choosing tourism.
It's that time of year again when students across the country are preparing for the national exams. And although it is Easter break and most students couldn't wait to be relaxing their days away teachers are advising that students, particularly those preparing for nationals exams use their time wisely, because the most important examinations of their academic life -- the Grade Level Assessment Test (GLAT), Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) and Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) are just around the corner.
Grade Level Assessment Test (GLAT)
The key to adequately preparing students for the national examinations is committed parental involvement, according to Kristan Burrows, a second grade teacher at Claridge Primary School. The teacher, with nine years of experience under her belt, who has taught grades one and two throughout her career, said it is important to help a child build the right foundation if they are to succeed in their Grade Level Assessment Tests (GLAT), which are taken in grades three and six.
"I may not have taught any of the exam level classes, but I do know that if you don't help students to build a good academic background in both grade one and grade two, hoping they can keep up in grade three and do well on the assessment exam is fruitless," she said. "Real preparation starts from the time students enter primary school straight up until the point of the examinations. By grade three or six they should be cementing the facts they already know and perfecting the skills they should already have. Trying to get a child to be on grade level and excel in these tests at this point, while not impossible is extremely difficult. But if your child is an average student or above average this is a time to let them practice, study and reread as much as possible."
The GLAT examinations are scheduled to begin in the first week of May, which is why students should now be in high gear, brushing up on what they have learnt. Being ready will allow students to perform at a level that truly reflects their capabilities. As a result, Burrows says primary school students should be using their Easter break to not just relax, but to keep up with their school work.
"Key to ensuring students at this age succeed is the parent's responsibility to step up and do their part in their child's education. Do not expect a teacher to give the student everything. Teachers can only supply them with so much and then it is up to the parents to ensure homework is done and any concepts the child doesn't know well enough they learn be it by calling the teacher or getting a tutor," she says. "It would be hoped that during the break students go through their old tests and the school work they did in detail. They should be spending at least an hour a day to review their work."
The educator said parents should also pay attention to helping students study Mathematics and Language Arts. Some topics to look over in Math include number concepts like Roman numerals, fractions, time and solid shapes. Computation problems like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as mathematical applications like word problems are also important.
The Language Arts section of the GLAT is broken down into written composition, reading comprehension, listening comprehension and language arts skills like grammar and spelling. Ensuring students practice their writing skills and reading would be essential to keeping them on their toes.
Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) preparation
When it comes to preparing for the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examinations, which are usually taken in the ninth grade and will be sat at the end of April, Claudine Rolle, a Language Arts teacher at T.A. Thompson Junior School, said students need to be on their toes even during their Easter break, because slacking off at this point in the school year can be detrimental to their academic career.
The educator of 16 years said students need to be focused more than ever and use this golden opportunity to polish up on the topics and concepts they are still a little unclear about.
"This is time to study, study, study. Relaxation is good, but it can wait until summer when all is said and done. Students need to be on top of their work, especially those who have course work to finish. Students in technical areas like Family and Consumer Science will need to practice their sewing and complete course work before the deadline, which is coming fast," she said. "Parents need to make sure students aren't slacking off because they need to be doing their best now. If they don't finish course work it often doesn't make sense doing the national exam for the subject. Course work can be as much as 40 percent of the entire grade, so it is important not to miss out on doing your best.
This break is a good time to be doing the finishing touches."
She said students taking the BJC science subjects also need to be studying the in-depth topics the subjects cover, adding the break is a good time to be reading over work, practice labeling, definitions and refreshing one's memory on these topics.
For critical subjects like Mathematics she said it is important to practice everything, and that simply studying concepts are not enough. Doing practice questions from the schools or from examinations from the testing and evaluation section of the Ministry of Education, she said, is key in preparing for this examination.
Language Arts is just as important to pay close attention to. The three papers of the examination cover topics from essay writing, letter writing, comprehension and literary devices like poems and cloze passages.
"Students shouldn't be allowed to just relax this whole time. They should be practicing, reading and writing throughout the break, especially for the Language Arts examination. Paper one alone carries 40 percent of the exam, and students have to show they can write an intriguing and captivating story that is grammatically correct, as well one which reveals the finer points of letter writing. They will also need to improve on their comprehension abilities, and using the newspaper for a reading comprehension quiz is a good thing to do during the break. Going over notes for terminology used with poems and refreshing the memory about cloze or other literary advices is important to do. Passing these examinations can be so easy if students just take the time to study."
Rolle said students should have a good idea about what they need to improve on for their upcoming examinations, since they would've gotten the results of their mock BJC exam back and teachers would have reviewed their weaknesses. She said parents can take up the mantle as well, and ensure students get help in the areas they are weakest in. The teacher said there are many opportunities for parents to find help for their students, like the free after school classes many teachers offer, conferences with teachers and the many advertised tutoring programs floating around.
Preparing for the Bahamas General Certificate of
There should be a balance between studying and relaxation when it comes to this last long break before national examinations, said Jeneva Robinson, a teacher at Preston Albury High School in Eleuthera. The Religious Studies teacher said she would advise students to use the Easter break to study like crazy for their Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE), but at the same time she said they should also try to breathe before they take on the academic sprints.
"The BGCSEs are right around the corner [beginning at the end of April], and students should use this Easter break to study like never before, but at the same time I think they also need to relax a bit. With that said, it is important for students to spend two-to-four hours studying daily. This is not a major sacrifice and it all adds up in the end."
The educator said it is important for parents to pitch in and help their children study and understand concepts clearly. If course work is not completed by now, she said it is important to ensure students attack it, since most work is due as soon as school reopens. Ensuring they are studying everything they learnt is also important to do at this point as well.
"It's a bit late to just be studying for an exam like the BGCSE," said Robinson. "This should have been in progress since last year in grade 11 or even grade 10, because at this point, if you are attempting to start studying you will be cramming, and students will only stress themselves out and most likely not do well. But if you have started to study then you are in a good position to just be reviewing your work. At this time you should be reflecting and practicing. This is not the time to just relax. I t's about getting ready."
Ensuring things like course work is complete is also essential. She said most if it should have already been sent in to the Ministry of Education, but for those few subjects that are not as yet, doing it now is essential. Once the course work is in, she said students should prepare a good study schedule and stick to it straight through the national examinations.
Robinson said that for many students it is hard to get in the groove of studying, which is why parents need to be on top of them, even during their high school years.
"High school students should be more accountable, but often the sheer gravity of the examinations can be discouraging, so it may do many parents good to find a good tutor for their student so they make worthwhile use of these last few days," said Robinson.
Students sitting the 2012 Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGSCE) exams received an average letter grade of D in English Language and E+ in Mathematics, according to data from the Ministry of Education.
However, the two subjects are among 19 that saw an improvement compared to results from last year, a report prepared on the 2012 BGCSE results noted.
In 2011, the mean grade for Mathematics was an E- and a D for English Language, which did not see a letter grade improvement this year but had a GPA increase, the data showed.
Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald said in spite of the increase in certain areas, his ministry is unhappy with the scores, which he said showed students' weakness in math and reading skills.
"As in the case with the BJC results, an improvement is noted in the overall performance of schools throughout the country," he said at a press conference at the Ministry of Education. "But while there has been improvement, we at the ministry are not satisfied that our graduates as a whole are sufficiently equipped or prepared for the 21st century workforce.
"Therefore, we still have a lot of work to do and a very long way to go. We accept that reading, grammar and mathematics are weak and we know that we have to create a stronger foundation."
To help bolster students' performance in those areas, in September the Ministry of Education plans to double reading periods for students in grades 1 to 3 and increase math periods by almost 50 percent, Fitzgerald said.
Eleven subjects saw an increase in letter grades this year when compared to 2011: Art and Design B, rose to B- from C; Bookkeeping/Accounts rose to D from D-; Clothing Construction rose to D+ from D; Combined Science rose to C- from D+; Commerce rose to D+ from D; Economics rose to D+ from D; Electrical Installation rose to D+ from D-; Graphical Communication rose to C from C-; Music rose to C from C-; Office Procedures rose to C- from D and, as noted, math rose to E+ from E-.
Eight subjects showed an improvement in grade point average (GPA) this year when compared to last year: Art and Design C; Auto Mechanics; English Language; French; Geography; History; Physics and Spanish.
Six subjects saw a decline in performance this year compared to 2011: Art and Design A; Biology; Chemistry; Food and Nutrition; Carpentry and Joinery and Religious Studies.
The performance in two subjects, Literature and Keyboarding, remained unchanged at C- and D+ respectively.
According to the data, the highest percentage of grades awarded -- 26 percent -- was a C.
The results show that 947 students received a C or above in five or more subjects compared to 937 students who scored similarly in 2011, representing a 1.07 increase.
This year, 1,594 candidates got a minimum grade of D in at least five subjects, representing a 2.54 percent increase from the 1,554 candidates who scored similarly in 2011, accordance to the report.
The report said that 7,117 students from 100 centers registered to sit the exam. This represents a 2.87 percentage decrease from 2011 when 7,327 candidates from 101 centers registered to take the exams.
This year, the Ministry of Education offered 27 subjects; however, the average number of subjects each student took was five.
Fitzgerald also revealed scores for the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) exams.
Of the 10 BJC subjects offered, six showed an improvement in grade point averages: Craft Study; English Language; Mathematics; Religious Studies; Health Science and Social Studies.
Four subjects saw a decline this year: Art; General Science; Family and Consumer Science and Technical Drawing.
The ministry's report said that 9,009 candidates from 23 centers were registered to take the BJC exams.
The national examinations are graded on a seven point scale A - G. Letters A, B, and C are considered above average; D is average while E, F, and G are below average.
While student performance improved marginally in more than half of the 27 Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exam categories, on average students have continued to earn Ds and Es in English language and mathematics, respectively, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Education yesterday.
According to the results, 588 students received at least a grade of C or above in maths, English language and a science.
This represents a five percent increase over the 561 students who achieved that mark last year.
At a press conference at the Ministry of Education yesterday, Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald added that the percentage of students who achieved grades between A and C in BGCSEs declined from 48.57 percent to 46.49 percent.
He said the highest percentage of any grade awarded was C at 26 percent.
"Last year, during the press release of the results, I indicated that we in the ministry were concerned about the performance of our students in BJC (Bahamas Junior Certificate) and BGCSE mathematics," Fitzgerald said.
"This year, we are pleased to note the improved performance at both levels and sincerely hope that this trend continues."
There were improvements recorded in 16 of the BGCSE subjects tested.
Those include book-keeping, accounts, clothing construction, electrical installation, English language, graphical communication, literature, music, physics, mechanics, combined science, commerce, French, religious studies, maths and office procedures.
Results in art and design scheme C remain unchanged from 2013.
Other subjects where there was a decline in performance include art and design scheme A, history, keyboarding skills, art and design scheme B, biology, carpentry and joinery, chemistry, economics, food and nutrition and Spanish.
In total, 922 students achieved a C grade or above in five or more BGCSE subjects, compared to the 996 students in the previous year, representing a 7.43 percent decrease.
In 2012, 947 achieved those grades; in 2011, 937; in 2010, 921; in 2009, 834 and in 2008, 824 students received those grades.
A total of 1,545 students earned a D grade or above in at least five subjects, compared to the 1,626 students in 2013.
This represents a 5.98 percent decrease.
There were 1,594 students who achieved this in 2012; 1,554 students in 2011 and 1,582 students in 2010.
There was a marginal increase in the percentage of G grades awarded, according to the statistics.
"I wish to admonish our students as they begin their 2014-2015 academic pursuits to continue to strive for excellence," Fitzgerald said.
"Embrace the opportunities available to you. Hard work does pay off. The journey of a thousand miles certainly begins with a first step. With God's help you can succeed."
According to Fitzgerald, 6,789 candidates registered to sit the BGCSE exams, a decrease of 4.92 percent compared to the 7,117 candidates registered in 2013.
Asked about the reason for the near five percent decrease in participation this year, Education Director Lionel Sands said more students in grades 10 and 11 took BGCSE exams last year.
Regarding the BJCs, approximately 8,987 candidates registered to sit the exams.
The average for eight of the 10 BJC subjects improved when compared to 2013.
These subjects include art, craft study, general science, family and consumer science, maths, religious studies, social studies and technical drawing.
Results declined in English language and health science, according to the results.
Maths is the only subject that improved by a letter grade from E to D+, which is the best result in the last decade, according to Fitzgerald.
The letter grade for the other nine subjects remained unchanged.
At first glance, he seems to be like just any other young man his age with the usual air of confidence and a seeming nonchalant attitude, but if you take a closer look and get to know him better, you realize that 15-year-old Brennan Williams is much more than meets the eye. He's smart and he has a passion for saving animals -- particularly cats.
Williams, a ninth-grade student at North Eleuthera High School, was recently recognized at the Ministry of Education's 19th annual national award presentation as co-winner of the best results for the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examinations in the government schools, and the male with the best overall BJC results in government schools.
He believes that if young men live in the shadow that society casts upon them, they will never live up to their potential. And he worked hard to prove that he is capable, earning seven A grades in General Science, Health Science, Mathematics, Technical Drawing, Family and Consumer Sciences, Social Studies and Religious Knowledge and a B grade in English Language.
"When I started grade nine I said to myself that I really wanted to do the best in my school when I took the BJCs," he said. "I even thought it would be great to do the best on my island but I didn't imagine that I would get the overall best results in the country for a government school or even a male. It was amazing when I did all of that. To me this proves that nothing is impossible once you are willing to work hard for it."
The honor roll student, who has a grade point average (GPA) of 3.44, has always set the bar high for himself and is glad when he achieves far beyond his expectatons. Due to his determination to outdo himself he does not let the views of society hinder his dreams or dicatate what he can or cannot do. He truly believes nothing is impossible.
Although he has a lot of ambition, he gives credit for his success to his family who he says has always supported him in excelling in everything that he sets his mind to.
His mother, Thakurdaye Williams, a primary school teacher, constantly encourages him to work harder in his weakest subject, English. His father, Brian Williams, an agriculture teacher at his school, helps him with his math and sciences. But he says his greatest motivator was his elder sister Brianne, who never let him take no for an answer and was always interested in her education and discovering new things. He says it was her who pushed him to be the same way too.
"I guess since my parents are teachers and my sister was really smart, great things are expected of me as well. For some this may seem like a lot of pressure but it's a good motivation for me to keep doing better and better," he said. "My sister really pushed me the hardest sometimes. She was a really good student and could explain anything to me. She was valedictorian of our school last school year, and seeing how well she did always encourages me."
Williams adheres to a strict study schedule. He hits the books for at least two hours after school on subjects that are easiest for him. He spends an additional hour on the subject he has the most difficulty with -- English. And the study method that he has found that works best for him is to rewrite all of his notes and repeat what he understands to himself. It's a method he doesn't always stick to as he switches things up so that his study habits don't become monotonous. He sometimes makes up questions to himself so that he can think of all the answers, which he said he's found to be a good way to prepare for exams.
Tutoring students who don't understand something the way he does also helps. He said he's found that it's a good way to ensure that he understands the subject too. But he always prefers a quiet area when he's studying.
Now a tenth-grade student, Williams says it was nice to be recognized for his work during the national awards presentation, but he says that is behind him and his focus in on the future. He aspires to become an aeronautical engineer. Passionate about the field, he has chosen a course of study towards that end, taking optional courses in physics, chemistry and graphical communication.
Williams has not started looking at colleges as yet, but he is doing everything he can to ensure that he's a good candidate for any school he applies to.
But brains aren't everything to the teenager, he also has a passion for animals. When he isn't studying or trying to escape to the beach for a quick swim, his hands are full taking care of the cats in his settlement. He was appalled that people did not take care of their animals, and remembers sneaking strays home to feed and take care of them. He never thought about keeping the animals and always set them free once they were better.
"It really hurts me to see animals not being taken care of properly. I think everyone has a role in helping the animals that live around them," he says."Some of them [animals] just need homes and can be really loyal if you take care of them. I don't like to see them being kicked or abused and I think we all can do something about it."
The tenth-grade student believes it's important for young people to find things they like to do, so that they can develop their personality and discover their strengths. While he does not participate in a lot of extracurricular activities at his school, he makes an effort to participate on the track team.
And he does not feel disadvantaged attending a Family Island school. He says he may not have as many options in classes or after-school activities as students at schools in the capital, but he says he has peace and quiet and that he appreciates every class he does have.
"Students should appreciate every small blessing they have when it comes to their education. Make the best of whatever you have and remember that studying is important, but doing other things in your community or around your school is just as good. Caring about what's going on around you or doing things to develop yourself outside of your school work helps to make you a better person I believe."
Williams encourages students - particularly young men - to find their niche when it comes to their school work and communities. He said not everyone will be strong in the same areas, nor will they be able to study or enjoy things in the same way. He hopes that in the future he can hear more good news about young men excelling in society instead of hearing about fighting and violence.
To contribute to his dream for young men, Williams is aspiring to continue to excel in his school work by first conquering English and finally earning an A grade. He hopes to achieve a 4.0 GPA before his high school years end and he also dreams of returning as an awardee in the national awards ceremony for his Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education exam results. He says there is nothing a person can't do if they put their mind to it. And while he dreams big he hopes other young men join him and dream even bigger.
The Sandals Foundation donated some much-needed
supplies to D.W. Davis Jr High School's Family and Consumer Sciences
Department, just in time for the students to prepare for the practical
side of their Bahamas Junior Certificate exams (BJC).
Royal Bahamian's Executive Sous Chef Seanette Cooper presented the
Sandals Foundation's donation which included aprons, vegetable peelers,
spices, table cloths and much more. D.W. Davis Vice- Principal Sterling
McPhee said that the school was very grateful for the donation
is a very timely gift because the children just started their BJC Exams...
By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
SOME prison officers who may be interested in vying for the position of superintendent do not have the necessary qualifications, according to Tribune sources.
It is alleged some of them have two BJC passes, or less, as an academic qualification.
Recent changes to recruitment standards at the prison make it mandatory for new entrants to have five BJC passes.
However, a Tribune source said some members of the senior command have not increased their exposure or academic qualifications after years of being in the system.
Some of them are "stuck in the lock down" mentality, based on the old system they grew up ...
By STAFF WRITER
Guardian News Desk
Education Minister Desmond Bannister yesterday commended teachers and students in South Andros as a result of improvements over the past few years in Bahamas Junior Certificate(BJC)and Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education(BGCSE)exam results.
Bannister said for the past five years there have been incremental improvements in BJC and BGCSE exam results in the district.
Bannister has been visiting schools across the Family Islands over the past week.
"The biggest class I have seen here is 20. I just came out of a classroom with seven students in a grade 12. When you have seven students to one teacher we should see outstanding results and that is one ...
SWEETINGS CAY, Grand Bahama – Minister of Education Science and Technology, the Honourable Jerome Fitzgerald visited the far eastern community of Sweetings Cay last Friday to personally congratulate five students who had outstanding achievements in their first sitting of the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) Exams.
Jodi Cornish is a senior at the Stapledon School for the Mentally Challenged and because of the school he attends, most people would immediately put limitations on him and expect him to be capable of little.
Actually, Cornish's life has been filled with barriers. He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which made learning challenging for him. His mother, Carmel Cornish said he is also "deaf" to certain pitches, but he refers to it as "selective" hearing. And he has a speech impediment.
But the 16-year-old is definitely more than meets the eye. And he is ready to "shake-off the shackles" that people use to hold him back, and prove that great things can happen to anyone no matter what cards they are dealt in life, as long as they get the attention they need.
Jodi in recent years has gotten the personalized attention that he needs and is finally excelling further than he had ever dreamed.
One of his most recent opportunities to shine came when he was awarded at the 10th annual thanksgiving and recognition ceremony for schools in the northwestern district award. Cornish was selected as the student of the year for the Stapledon School for the Mentally Challenged. He achieved an A grade in art in the recent Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examinations. It was the first time a student at the school had ever taken and passed the exam and he did so with the best possible result.
"It felt good to get the award. I worked hard and it was fun. You have to believe in yourself. I knew I would do well. I love to draw. I feel great because of it," said Jodi.
But Jodi was not always this confident in himself or his abilities. In fact, in the past had he been asked what he wanted to do when he was older, he wouldn't have been confident enough to look that person in their eyes, much less try to form a sentence to answer them. He has come a long way from being the shy youth sitting at the back of the class in a daze, to the young man who has dreams of being a mechanic and living a normal, unhindered life.
And it all changed in the last two years. His mother got fed up with the lack of assistance her son was receiving at school in Abaco, and transferred him to the Stapledon School for the Mentally Challenged in New Providence, to get him into the right learning environment.
"It definitely was a big step for us to move to New Providence in order for Jodi to go to school in the right environment," said his mother. "I am glad we did because despite living for years in the United States and having access to special education classes in the public school, Jodi has not gotten as much help as he is getting right now. We moved back to The Bahamas seven years ago and I still kept trying to find him the help he needs. For years I had tried unsuccessfully to get my son in the only special school in Abaco, it was not only 40 miles away from us in Marsh Harbor, but the waiting list was too long and I got fed up. Jodi was frustrated, he wasn't really learning and wasn't too happy in the government school he was in, so I knew we had to do something."
Since the move she saw her son "skyrocket" intellectually, and his interest in school and extracurricular activities increased. Jodi not only attends classes at Stapledon School daily, but he also goes to Government High School three times a week to study art; the Centre for the Deaf once weekly to learn woodworking and design, and is tutored in reading and writing once a week outside of his normal classes. He is also getting assistance with his speech impediment.
The single mother said she is doing all she can to ensure that her son gets the help he needs, to learn and achieve the levels of success she knows he is capable of.
"It is almost overwhelming how he has gone from having so little help to being showered with it," she said.
She is even prouder of the fact that her son is just as interested in achieving as his teachers are in helping him.
And Jodi has goals that entail him excelling outside of the classroom. The teenager is also a sports fanatic and has played football and baseball. But basketball is his all-time favorite sport. The point guard spends many of his afternoons practicing and working out with other players. All the practices paid off for him as he was selected to the team that represented The Bahamas last year in Athens, Greece in the Special Olympics.
"I was really excited to go to Greece and play. It was fun and I got to go by myself. I hadn't been away for a long time, so it was nice. It was a long flight and long trip [three weeks] and I got to play a lot. We didn't win but I got to see a lot of stuff. I got to see two different hotels. I stayed in one and the other I visited. It was a good trip."
Moving forward, Jodi is thankful for all the help he has received from teachers who have gotten him to this point in his life. He said it took a lot to build his confidence to truly believe he could be anything he wanted to be. He now even dares to dream of one day attending the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute to study automechanics and body work.
"I did not always believe in myself. Before now I didn't like asking questions or saying I don't understand. My teachers didn't understand me and I didn't like to talk," said Jodi. "But I'm learning better now and I want to try everything I can. It will make things easier for me if I learn stuff. I really like school now. I like Math and doing division and multiplication. I'm good at it," he said.
Jodi's new-found confidence has him setting his sights on an even bigger accomplishment. He plans to take BJCs in Mathematics and English Language in June, as well as the Bahamas General Certificate in Secondary Education (BGCSE) in Art.
After his graduation in 2013 he hopes to also get his driver's license and own a car. He also aspires to fulfill his dream of one day of being a mechanic and maybe even owning his own company. Although many people may not believe in him he feels nothing is impossible if one tries.
He may not have gotten off to the best start, but he is confident that he will finish as strong as he can. He now believes that when one thing fails, he has the confidence to try something else.
"I can do anything. I like to see my mom proud. I like when people cheer for me. I will keep working hard so I do my best," said Jodi.
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Sandals Foundation donated some much-needed supplies to D.W. Davis Jr High School's Family and Consumer Sciences Department, just in time for the students to prepare for the practical side of their Bahamas Junior Certificate exams (BJC).
Sandals Royal Bahamian's Executive Sous Chef Seanette Cooper presented the Sandals Foundation's donation which included aprons, vegetable peelers, spices, table cloths and much more. D.W. Davis Vice- Principal Sterling McPhee said that the school was very grateful for the donation.
"This is a very timely gift because the children just started their BJC Exams on Monday so we are very excited that the Sandals Foundation was able to offer the assistance that they did today," Mr. McPhee said.
Photo: (Left to Right) Head of D.W. Davis' Home Economics Department Patricia McSweeny, D.W. Davis' Home Economics Teacher Terishka Cleare , Sandals Royal Bahamian's Executive Sous Chef Seanette Cooper, D.W. Davis' Home Economics Teacher Keisha Bonimy, D.W. Davis' Vice Principal Sterling McPhee, D.W. Davis' Home Economics Teacher Keneisha Dillian Thompson.
For most kids a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.60 is something to "crow" about, but for 15-year-old Selandia Toote, it's a source of embarrassment. Excellence to her means a grade point average that is above the 3.80 mark.
"I think my failure to get above my 3.80 mark is due to my procrastination and not completing my work as well as I should have last semester," said the Queen's College 10th grade student. "It also didn't help that I was transitioning to high school and the work is harder and there are more demands. This is the time I should have been more focused than ever, but I wasn't, so there is no excuse for not achieving above a 3.80 like I usually do. I am working harder to just stay on track and do what I know I should be doing this time around."
Toote is now making the adjustment, and now aspires to not settle for less than the best and has her sights set on achieving a 4.0 GPA. To accomplish this she knows she will have to "pull up her socks" in all of her classes -- particularly Language Arts and Literature, which she considers her weakest subjects. Right now she is even taking extra evening classes to strengthen herself in her weak areas, and tries to be even more focused and creative when doing assignments.
Some people would think Toote is being too hard on herself, taking into consideration the fact that she had the best overall and independent Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) results in the country in 2011. She was graded at A in Math, English, Social Studies, Art, Religion, Health Science, General Science and Home Economics and a B in Craft. She still believes she could have done better.
"It was a great feeling to have accomplished what I did for the BJCs. I was surprised when I was told I got the best grades overall in independent schools and the country. It was even nicer to get an award and prizes like $1,000 and a laptop as well, since I never had a personal laptop before, but I try not to focus on that too much. I still have a long road to go if I want to accomplish my dreams. I still need to be focused and really push myself to do even more. It's not good to keep looking at what you did. You still have to keep your eye on the prize and work even harder to achieve all you can at the end, so that is what I am doing," said the overachiever.
Unlike many students who may rely on their parents to push them, Toote believes that the key to her success lies greatly in her own academic independence. She said that at this stage in her education her mother, Edith Toote, a teacher herself, does not heavily assist her in her schoolwork. The high school student said she was made to be responsible for her own successes and failures. The responsible attitude her mother instilled in her, she said, has made her realize how important it is to be self-reliant. If she doesn't accomplish a goal, she said she has no one to blame but herself.
The high school student is keen on finding new strategies to self-motivate herself academically. So far she said her study schedule tactics and incorporation of extra-curricular activities to break up the humdrum existence of schoolwork has worked well for her, keeping her on the honor roll consistently. She was also given the distinction of being named salutatorian of her primary school graduating class in 2008.
As she adjusts to life in high school, young Toote is preparing herself to get ahead academically by preparing to sit the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) Art exam in eleventh grade.
Despite what she says, Toote is definitely one of the smart kids. While she has set a rigorous course of study for herself, because she says her studies are important, she said for someone like herself, it's also a must that she make time for the extra-curricular activities like soccer, volleyball and softball, which she loves.
She also plays the flute and clarinet, and is a member of the New Testament Baptist Church band, as well as the New Bethlehem Baptist Church Band. She is also a member of the National Youth Orchestra.
Toote is also a member of the Student Christian Movement and the Modern Language Club at her school. A young lady with a "civic bone" in her body, she does work with the Red Cross as well.
She said her extra-curricular activities are a way for her to relax, deal with the pressures of schoolwork and just have fun. Toote said they keep her from being bored or easily distracted. Once she commits to a schedule in which her school and social life are balanced, she said she knows she has to utilize her time wisely, which makes her better at time management.
"I have a lot of things I do, so when I slot in to study, I try not to stray away from that plan. I get the hours in, ensure I understand what I am doing and then move on," said Toote.
She doesn't like a quiet corner to do that studying in either. She likes to study with music playing. She said it makes her calmer and helps her to focus better.
"I know I have to make the most of whatever time I schedule, no matter the activity, and this has worked well for me I believe. The times when my study time is cut back I make up for it, but I don't like to do that. School is still the first priority."
Toote has a pretty packed life, but she said all of her extra activities make her a more well-rounded person.
"I have dreams of being headgirl at my school one day too, so I like it when I have opportunities to be in leadership, which is why I am glad my peers chose me to represent my class (Grade 10 Rogers) on the student representative council. I think it is absolutely important to be as involved in different things as you can be."
Young Toote hopes that her dedication to her schoolwork will earn her the chance to attend Liberty University in Virginia to study art and design, even though she's still uncertain of what she wants to do in life. It is an institution that she likes and knows that her mother would be proud if she attended it.
One lesson young Toote said she has learnt well over the years is that putting God first in life is essential to success. She said being driven by God's will gives a greater academic purpose and opens the mind to unknown possibilities.
"As a student you need to have a focal point. You have to have a reason for what you do because otherwise studying and working so hard doesn't make sense. God is the best focal point to me. He gives you a purpose that you will never lose."
This smart kid also advises other students to remember that time is precious and that tomorrow is closer than they think. She believes it is best to take advantage of whatever comes your way, because assuming it can be done later is a mistaken way of thinking.
While she wants to excel academically, she also has plans to travel the world in her more youthful years, because she said it may be a luxury she may not have later in life. Toote said she never wants to be one of those people that have to imagine, "What if ...?"
"It is important to be open to new things and embrace the world around you. Life does not end in the classroom. It is beyond those walls and it's good to get a taste of it. Education happens everywhere, so I encourage other students to just be adventurous."
After learning that the song, "God Bless our Sunny Clime" was sung for the first time as the national song of The Bahamas at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in The Bahamas in 1985, elementary students and guests at Lyford Cay International School (LCIS) had an opportunity to listen to the song. Grade six students at LCIS led an assembly to educate the school's student body about The Commonwealth and to celebrate Commonwealth Day.
After spending several weeks learning about inter-governmental agencies in their Program of Inquiry unit entitled, "How We Organize Ourselves" students shared what they had learned with their schoolmates, parents and teachers. "Students learn so much from their peers," said Head of Elementary, Isadora Blyden. "We are so happy to see an assembly like this come together. We all learned so much about the Commonwealth."
Sixth grade students along with their siblings presented flags from each of the 53 Commonwealth countries during their parade of countries. They also presented informational posters on each country to encourage their peers and teachers to learn more about Commonwealth countries. They played the Bahamian National Anthem on steel drums and gave the history of The Commonwealth, as well as outlined the goals of the Commonwealth for their audience.
The Queen's Annual Commonwealth Day message was also read as part of the special assembly. The national champion rake n' scrape band from Gerald Cash Primary school performed and wowed the crowd with two lively rake n' scrape songs and showed everyone assembled why they have been the national champions for four years in a row.
Commonwealth Day is celebrated around the Commonwealth on the second Monday in March every year. The goals of the Commonwealth are friendship, equality, and diversity. The aim of commemorating Commonwealth Day is to promote understanding on global issues, international co-operation and the work of the Commonwealth to improve the lives of its two billion citizens. The world's largest and smallest, richest and poorest countries make up the Commonwealth and are home to two billion citizens of all faiths and ethnicities -- over half of whom are 25 or under. Member countries span six continents and oceans from Africa to Asia, the Americas, Australia, the Caribbean, and Europe.
"Bahamian culture is a vitally important component of our school curriculum," said LCIS principal Stacey Bobo. "We are an international school but we are located in The Bahamas. We welcome every opportunity to share the incredibly rich Bahamian history with all of our students. Our student body is 40 percent Bahamian, and these students are certainly very proud of their culture. I could see the Bahamians in the crowd smile with pride when they heard how instrumental The Bahamas was in the dismantling of South African apartheid. And when the rake n' scrape started, the Bahamian pride was overwhelming!"
As an international school, LCIS exposes students to many worldwide cultures. The school believes in the sharing of culture as it works to transform its students into global citizens. LCIS students participated in Junior Junkanoo and the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival. They learn Bahamian social studies as a part of their curriculum, and classes experience the local environment through transformational field trips throughout the Bahamian islands.
LCIS students are exposed to Bahamian cultural building blocks like Junkanoo through The Educulture Junkanoo Museum and Junior Junkanoo; art through various trips to the National Gallery, Transforming Spaces and visits to local artists' studios; and the environment through partnerships with The Island School, BREEF and the Clifton Heritage Park as well as special field trips to San Salvador and Andros. They participate in the Bahamian MUN, and they compete athletically in the Bahamas Football Association (BFA), the Bahamas Scholastic Association (BSA), and the Bahamas Swim Federation (BSF) swim meets. They are involved in many local community service ventures including Hands for Hunger, The Bahamas Humane Society, Operation Potcake, Cans for Kids, YesI (tutoring with LCIS student peers in conjunction with football) Adelaide Primary School, and the Stephen Dillet Primary School Enrichment Program.
LCIS fully supports Bahamian students wanting to apply for local scholarships as well.
"Our IB [International Baccalaureate] curriculum is rigorous but we make sure that all Bahamian students have the opportunity to write local examinations including the BJC's [Bahamas Junior Certificate] and BGCSE's [Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education]," said secondary school guidance counselor Judy Reiach. "This makes them eligible to compete for local scholarships. We do not teach either of the BJC or BGCSE curriculums but we provide special dispensation for those students that want to learn the material and sit the exams."
Despite the fact the these curricula are not taught as part of the daily curriculum, LCIS students have shown consistently excellent results with a 95 percent "A" to "C" grade" pass rate in both national exams.