The two challengers to the Sister Islands incumbents both talked about expanding educational opportunities on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, as well as training Caymanians to step into roles currently filled by work permit holders, including teaching positions.
Cayman Brac East candidate Elvis McKeever and Cayman Brac West & Little Cayman candidate Maxine McCoy-Moore appeared on Cayman Crosstalk last Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Their incumbent opponents, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and Moses Kirkconnell, were not present.
On Wednesday, McKeever (who faces O’Connor-Connolly) said he supports getting students more involved in hands-on trades such as plumbing, carpentry and electrical work.
“What we have been focussing on is the great students, the ones that are going to be doctors, lawyers, whatever,” he said.
“We have a booming construction industry, and we are not doing anything about it. That’s where we need to train up our young people,” he said.
On the subject of school segregation (the public school system is about 90% Caymanian), McKeever said he is in favour of giving non-Caymanians spaces in the public schools and giving Caymanians spaces in private schools, even if it means government has to pay for vouchers.
“I don’t believe in segregation of anything,” he said.
He said, “Somebody has got to fund it. If it has to be through government, so be it.”
He added, “We have got to get more Caymanian teachers in there.”
McKeever said he believes that the disparity in performance between public and private schools ultimately has more to do with differences in attitudes toward education between Caymanian and non-Caymanian parents.
“The expatriate is telling their kids, ‘Listen, this is once-in-a-lifetime. We couldn’t get it where we come from, basically free. Take advantage of this, my child. Don’t let me down.’ And that is why they are doing better,” he said.
“It begins at home.”
On Friday, McCoy-Moore (who faces Kirkconnell) said she would create a trade school on the Cayman Brac Bluff.
“A boarding school. It would cover all ages of children and at the same time extend the cover of special needs and autistic children of all ages also. That way I feel the children will be trained in a right and proper manner to take up posts that are available, not only in government but in the private sector as well,” she said.
Generally, she said she feels the current education system is on “the right track”.
She said, “It just needs to be polished up and the right people hired to educate our children, screened properly, and then our children trained to take the places of the teachers that are hired from overseas.”
McCoy-Moore, who worked as a Teacher’s Aide for Little Cayman Education Services, said the government should build a proper K-12 facility for Little Cayman, and also a civil service university on Cayman Brac’s Bluff.
She said she takes her hat off to Education Minister O’Connor-Connolly for fighting for a salary increase for most teachers, but that other educators deserve pay raises as well, including teacher’s aides, assistant teachers and school leaders.