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Council of Ministers’ Press Briefing Notes – MECYS

Greetings to all gathered here this morning – Madame Prime Minister, Honourable Ministers, the Department of Communications, members of the Press, as well as the listening and viewing audiences via radio, television and social media.
Good morning, Soualuiga!

On Monday, the Sint Maarten National Netball Team played their final match of 7 in Barbados. They did their best in representing us in the Regional Qualifiers for the Netball World Cup 2019. We walked away in 7th place of the 8 teams that played. The team returns later today. To these ladies, we say thank you for carrying the Sint Maarten flag onto this regional and international stage. 

The new mini-pitch at the Emilio Wilson Park will be formally opened tomorrow. This is another facility where youngsters and trainers can hone their skills and develop their athletic abilities.
Through the Department of Sports, our ministry will continue to work towards strengthening sports on Sint Maarten so that our people can play professionally and compete on the international level. Let us encourage our children, youth and all who are able to practise and train in their chosen activities. Celebrate their efforts and highlight them on social media with the hashtag #SportsMatter.

The Student Support Services Division of my Ministry is organizing two free workshops. The first one is themed “Supporting Children with Special Needs: Café-Styled Conversation”. This will be held this evening, September 5th at the University of St. Martin from 7pm to 9pm. This workshop is open to the public for anyone who has an interest in caring for and educating children with special needs.
The second workshop is entitled “Applying to Schools in the Netherlands”. This workshop will be held on September 6, 2018 and it is open to recent graduates or to students who are in the last two years of secondary school. The workshop will be held from 5:15 PM to 6:45 PM at the office of the Student Support Services Division, which is located in the Amigo Building, across from the Police Station next to the Windward Island Bank (WIB) in Philipsburg.
The ‘Applying to Schools in the Netherlands’ workshop is aimed at students from all sections of the diverse education system on St. Maarten. Whether you come from a vocational or an academic tract or whether your instruction was in the Dutch or English language, there will be valuable information for you. Students are encouraged to be on time and to register for the workshop since space is limited. If parents or students have any questions on these workshops, they can contact the Student Support Services Division at telephone 543-1235 for more information. 

-Loss of Public Education Student
As some of you may know, we recently lost one of the students from one of our public schools. Little Glayvon Bartlette was only 4 years old at his passing. One can only imagine the pain that comes from losing a child at such a tender age. To the parents, grandparents, family and loved ones, on behalf of myself and the entire Ministry of ECYS, I extend to you our deepest sympathies. 
At this point, I would like us to pause for a moment of silence in Clayvon’s memory. 
While we understand that there is much speculation in the media concerning the circumstances of Glayvon’s passing, let us be respectful of the family’s time of bereavement. We must allow them this time to process their grief and give the authorities the opportunity to conduct their investigations.
This brings me to my next point for this press briefing. 

Just over a week ago, I met with the Management of Turning Point to discuss plans to host a   Drug Awareness program for the schools. The aim of this initiative is to prevent drug use and abuse as we have been experiencing a rise on the island. Clinical director, Dr Judith Arndell and the program coordinator, Mr. Fernando Richardson are excitedly working on a revision of their plans which they will present to our Ministry in a short time. This prevention and intervention plan will help our children to avoid these harmful substances. 

Yesterday, the top performers for the 2018 FBE Exit Examinations were awarded for their accomplishments. The theme of yesterday’s ceremony was entitled “Excelling against the Odds”! And believe you me…these students did just that! They  excelled despite the rage and havoc caused by the worst hurricane ever to traverse the Atlantic. The overall top performer for the island was Suhani Nathumal with a 96 % final grade. Five other students were also recognised. Each child received a certificate and a gift. We encourage all our children to strive to do their best and to excel against the odds.

“Education On the Move” is a community-wide program aimed at encouraging all stakeholders in the community to promote education. Schools, government agencies and the private sector are encouraged to participate in various educational activities. As this Saturday, September 8th, is International Literacy Day, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, its Education on the Move (EOM) Team, in collaboration with the St. Maarten National Commission for UNESCO and friends in commemoration of this day will host the SXM Literacy Week from September 6-14, 2018. 
This is a week-long read-a-thon which will feature prominent figures within the Sint Maarten community who have been invited to read at the participating after-school-programs. Some of our Parliamentarians and our Ministers as well as owners and managers of businesses will be participating. The read-a-thon is to highlight the importance of READING. Education on the Move promotes the “DEAR” initiative - Drop Everything And READ. The idea of DEAR is that at least once per week all schools and businesses drop everything and be educated by reading for 20 minutes. I want to say: “Thank you”, in advance… to all the volunteer readers, participating schools and businesses. Remember, “Readers Are Leaders”, so encourage the young and old to read something every day.

With regard to the PSVE School, all I will say at this time is that a report is being prepared on the mediation meetings that were held by my Chef de Cabinet, Peter Gittens, and I with the Board of the Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education (FAVE), the principal and staff of the Preparatory Secondary Vocational Education section of FAVE, as well as with the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU). This report will be presented to the Board first, and then it will be shared with all relevant stakeholders. At this point, I remind all concerned that the focus must remain on the education of 300 students at the PSVE section. The children’s learning is top priority.

Continuing with education… this Thursday and Friday will be registration for the newly introduced, government-approved Law Program at the University of St. Martin. All persons who are interested in studying for the legal profession can now do so right here on Sint Maarten. I encourage you to enrol in this program which is being offered in collaboration with the University of Curaçao.

Today marks exactly  23 years that Sint Maarten was hit by Luis, a category 4 hurricane…and tomorrow marks one year that we were hit by Irma, a category 5+ hurricane. On the first anniversary of Hurricane Irma, let us come together on a National Day of Reflection, at precisely 9:06 A.M to 9:08 A.M, tomorrow Thursday, September 6, 2018. For these two minutes, we will cease from our activities at home, at school, at work, or on the roads as we reflect on two major hurricanes, Luis and Irma at hit Sint Maarten. So tomorrow at 9:06 let us PAUSE, STOP and REFLECT on lessons learned. During those 2 minutes, let us honour our unsung heroes and all the citizens that worked together to bring us to where we are today.  To document this moment of silence… individual persons, groups, organizations and foundations are encouraged to record their reflections on social media with the intention of creating a viral campaign #906REFLECTION and a commemorative compilation video documentary and booklet. 
With #906REFLECTION we hope to create a national platform of shared stories from voices in our communities that will offer solace, support and encouragement to others who are still recuperating 1 year later, while we give gratitude to God and acknowledge our survival. Please share your most impactful moment and provide us with words of wisdom, actions and thoughts that kept you going from strength to strength to where we are today 1 year later. Together, we are overcomers.

Thank you for watching and listening. Do have a pleasant day.