8 Aug. 2021
Weekly Current (archived version)
Overseas students gather after a year of COVID-19 disruptions. PACT lauds education actions during first ‘100 days’ in power. Big thanks to the initial sponsor for our TVET/STEM documentary. Congrats to this year’s Dart Scholars. Getting set for journalism camp.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
Lockdowns, mask mandates, vaccinations, quarantines, virtual learning … It’s been a heck of a year for — well, just about everyone.
And the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly disruptive for Cayman Islands students enrolled in universities overseas.
Non-profit organisation Cayman Connection held its annual reception at Government House last week, drawing dozens of students, alumni and supporters including host Governor Martyn Roper, Premier Wayne Panton and Financial Services Minister Andre Ebanks.
Cayman Connection is a networking and support group for Caymanians abroad, particularly in the United Kingdom. During last Wednesday’s event, founding director Jennifer Dilbert said the organisation is looking to expand to the United States and Canada, and eventually Asia.
As the Cayman Islands Representative to the UK and Europe, Ebanks headed up the government’s London Office before declaring his candidacy in the 2021 elections.
“I can’t tell you how incredibly important and supportive it was to have Cayman Connection side by side with the government London office,” he said. “For individuals [in lockdown] who were just looking at four walls by themselves, not knowing what the next day was going to look like with COVID, it was incredible to have that support unit.”
As Roper and others noted, the pandemic meant that many Caymanian students in UK universities had to deal with lockdowns, quarantines, public health restrictions and abrupt changes to school schedules. Some may have had to criss-cross the Atlantic multiple times, while others may have ‘attended’ UK university virtually from home in Cayman.
***Editor’s Note: Cayman Current journalist Kayla Young spoke with several students at the Cayman Connection event. We plan on following up with them, and sharing the experiences of Caymanians studying overseas during COVID in a future story. If you know someone we should talk to, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Stay tuned …***
Rising to power after the April elections, the PACT government recently marked the symbolic milestone of its first 100 days in charge of local Parliament.
As part of its ‘100 Day Report’, the PACT highlighted its actions on education, giving top billing to this area just as it did in its Strategic Policy Statement.
Here’s a rundown of achievements listed in the report’s Education section:
- Achieved ‘Good School’ rating at John Gray High School, Layman Scott High School and Lighthouse School
- Introduced the one-to-one Laptop Initiative for public school students
- Established new scholarships and provided additional funding for other existing scholarships
- Confirmed nine nursing students at UCCI who passed regional exams.
With Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly manning the helm for the PACT after 4 years leading education for the Progressives, many of the PACT’s actions on education can be seen as overlapping with the previous government or as a continuation of the Progressives’ policies.
We are sending out a massive “Thank You!” to Dart for their support of our planned mini-documentary series on TVET and STEM education. Dart is the initial sponsor of the Current’s first in-depth multimedia enterprise journalism project.
“We are pleased to support the Cayman Current’s efforts to shine a spotlight on the value of studying the STEM subjects and on the importance of Technical and Vocational Education and Training as fundamental investments in our community,” said Pilar Bush, Dart’s Executive Vice President responsible for Community Development.
“Even if a student doesn’t want to be an engineer, accountant or nurse, STEM subjects are fundamental to a good education: they teach valuable skills which can be used in a wide range of jobs; skills such as pattern recognition, logic, critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork.”
“In today’s economy, access to a wide range of high quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training options is a necessary investment in our human capital to help more Caymanians secure good jobs in the growing local economy,” Bush said.
We are engaged in discussions with other supporters to further enhance the quality and reach of our TVET/STEM project. As sponsorship agreements become official, we’ll provide details on sources of funding. (If you’re interested in supporting the TVET/STEM project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Congratulations to Jade Robinson of St. Ignatius Catholic School and Nathan Alston of Cayman Prep and High School!
Jade and Nathan were announced as this year’s Dart Scholars, winning 4-year scholarships to the high school of their choice. They’ll also have mentorship opportunities from Dart employees and “special enrichment experiences designed to expand their view outside the classroom”.
Focussing on STEM education, Dart Scholars are chosen through a four-round, blind evaluation process based on merit. The selection panel isn’t told about applicants’ gender, school, age or other identifying characteristics.
Dart CEO Mark VanDevelde said, “Our Dart Scholar programme rewards exemplary academic performance and student leadership, providing opportunities that foster the next generation of Caymanian leaders. Jade and Nathan have been consistently recognised for their scholastic achievements, all while balancing school with volunteerism and work experience. Through years of hard work, Jade and Nathan have deservedly earned this scholarship.”
As you’d expect, the competition for Dart Scholar is intense. In addition to Jade and Nathan, three finalists are recognised for their strong performances. This year’s finalists were Solana Ebanks from Cayman International School, Joshua Williams from Cayman Prep and Pranav Anu from Layman Scott High School.
We don’t think there will be any archery or s’mores (unfortunately), but we do hope this week’s Journalism and Media Summer Camp will be fun and informative for the teenagers who signed up to participate.
Hosted by Minds Inspired and local media houses, the camp for students age 14-17 takes place this week. Next week, we’re holding a pair of of follow-up sessions to assist students as they create their own journalism projects that will be published by participating media (including the Current).
The main purposes of the camp are to help the students become more discerning consumers of media and perhaps to spark an interest in journalism and media as future career pathways.
Current editor Patrick Brendel (that’s me) will be hosting a Writing Workshop on Tuesday, and on Friday will be part of a panel discussing ‘Media and Business Models’ along with Wendy Ledger of Cayman News Service and Ralph Lewis of the Caymanian Times.
Other participating organisations include Radio Cayman, Loop Cayman, Camana Bay Times, Cayman Sports Buzz, Compass Media and Cayman Marl Road. The esteemed Bruce Shapiro of NYC’s Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism will also be making a virtual appearance.
We’re looking forward to the camp and helping to showcase the students’ work.
*** Programming Note: We’re going on Summer Vacation! We are taking the next 2 weeks off to relax and recharge for the upcoming school year. During that time, we will not be publishing the Weekly Current newsletter. However, we will continue to update the Cayman Current website and social media feeds with news and stories. The newsletter will resume Sunday, 29 Aug. 2021.***
More from the Current
- Game making workshop for teens 16-20 Aug.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters holds Youth Mentoring Forum
- Caymanian teen picked as youth leader for UN Food Systems Summit
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- Miami Herald:As COVID cases among kids rise, Palm Beach County school district mandates masks
- Miami Herald: School vouchers to avoid mask rules? Florida education officials are considering it
- The Guardian (UK): Lack of government Covid plan for English schools ‘unforgivable’, says report
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Former principal: Cambridge curriculum should be dropped
The Week Ahead
- Gone Fishin’