Speech: 2016 National Bursary Scholar Award Ceremony

It is an absolute privilege to be here tonight to participate in the  award of scholarships to yet another fine group of outstanding recipients. Tonight’s event holds much significance as these students will be a part of an historic milestone of this fine institution.

Cognizant of the need to provide opportunities for deserving young Bahamians to have access to tertiary education, The Government of The Bahamas has made available this Bursary scholarship, specifically for the College of The Bahamas, so that more of our students can be provided with an opportunity to pursue tertiary education at home.

This should be a very proud moment for the 417 recipients and I offer my sincerest congratulations to all of you.

This scholarship is valued at approximately $2,500 per student per semester. That equates to $5, 000 per student, per year. If we multiply that by the 417 students receiving this award tonight, this represents  a total of two million eighty-five thousand dollars ($2,085,000) per year paid to the College of The Bahamas from the central government, for these deserving recipients.

I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, the Honourable Jerome K. Fitzgerald for his active participation and advocacy for more and more access by our students to higher education and his determination to seek more and more funding to achieve this goal. I can say unequivocally that he has a passion for education, particularly for those students who demonstrate their ability to matriculate to university level.

Under his leadership, the investment in scholarships has increased significantly as he has more than doubled the budget allocation for Scholarships.

Minister Fitzgerald, as the Government’s point man on education is carrying out with the full support of the Government of the Bahamas a key provision in our Charter of Governance and that is ensuring access to  tertiary education for each and every Bahamian. Let me state, unequivocally, that we are serious about equity in education and despite competing demands, we have  increased scholarship opportunities for students by increasing the Government’s investment in scholarships.

Let me commend the professionals in his Ministry for a job well done in the processing, objective analysis and determination of the process that has resulted in these young people being here this evening. It is always a herculean effort and one which by its very nature must take place over a compressed period of time. Thank you all!

It is so good to see so many parents and guardians and supporting relatives here this evening. You would have been an integral part of your student’s success and you should be elated that another step in your child’s journey is beginning.

To the parents and guardians who have struggled and sacrificed to provide the best opportunities for their students  I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate you for being a partner with the Government in the education of your sons and daughters. I use the word partnership because all education is about a partnership between the student, the teacher and that most vital of link, the parents.

It is well known that the defining factor between students who succeed and those who do not, is parental involvement. Far too many parents, for varying reasons have not provided the support that is required in their child’s educational journey.  Parents/guardians you are duly deserving of praise and we hope that this Bursary Award will help to make your load a little lighter and be as an incentive for other siblings to follow.

We need more parents who are serious about the present and future successes of their children. Poor parenting results in poor academic performance by students, while excellent and deliberate parenting produce exceptional students.

This scholarship award is one of the oldest in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, dating back to 1978, two years after the College of the Bahamas opened its doors as a unified tertiary institution

Since then, it has helped to send thousands of young Bahamians from both independent and public schools, to College. Just five years after our country would have gained its independence, this scholarship was established; and from then to now, it has liberated, empowered and allowed scores of Bahamians to experience personal and financial independence as a result of having received a good tertiary education. Through these Bursaries we have created a solid middle class of people who are now the teachers, nurses, public administrators, lawyers, accountants , churchmen, engineers, doctors, even politicians and the list goes on. The first step for many was to have a scholarship to COB. Many have forgotten where and how it started but for many it began through this process.

The objectives of this award are to:

  • To assist families and individuals in having access to a proper education at tertiary levels
  • Provide Bahamians with qualifications necessary for appointment to positions of responsibility.
  • Enable Bahamians to participate in the development and well being of the country.
  • Assist in developing the human capital of The Commonwealth of the Bahamas in its entirety

One hundred five (105) of the recipients have obtained an exceptional eight or more BGCSE with grades ‘A to C’  and will be presented with an Outstanding National Bursary Award this evening. To give you a better appreciation of the caliber of these students who will receive this award, I wish to bring to your attention the following:

  • 58 students obtained 8 BGCSEs,
  • 37 students obtained 9 BGCSEs,
  • 6 students obtained 10 BGCSEs and
  • 4 students obtained 12 BGCSEs.

In order for these students to maintain the scholarship during their time at COB, they must pursue 15 or more credits and maintain a GPA of 3.00 or higher each academic year.

Also, important to note, students that are already in attendance at the College of The Bahamas may obtain the Bursary Award by maintaining, for a minimum of one year, a grade point average of 3.00 or higher.

This award is something to be proud of. All of these students have earned this and are well-deserving. This is not a hand-out – this is an investment in our young people.

Mr. Dominic McDonald, the 2015 All Bahamas Merit Scholar reminded us politicians on Wednesday past of the importance of investing in Bahamian youth. He referenced a paper commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund, New York entitled, The Case for Investing in Young People as part of a National Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Mr. McDonald was sharing his experience as a beneficiary of the Government’s most prestigious scholarship – the All Bahamas Merit Scholarship – and he recognized and highlighted the importance of governments investing in young people. I wish to reassure Mr. Dominic McDonald and all Bahamian youth that we fully understand this premise and we feel a sense of obligation to the young people of this country to help them not just survive but to thrive as citizens and to have the opportunities to maximize their potential.

For some students, The College of The Bahamas is the only option – for many others however, and this is a sign of the changing times and how far the College has come, COB is their first choice. It is very satisfying  to note that Bahamian students are embracing the quality education that COB offers. This cohort of students is among the best and brightest and come from all across The Bahamas from public as well as private institutions. This is a telling sign that our basic educational system is on an upward spiral and anyone who doubts it need only look all around us.

To the recipients, I urge you to make the most of your opportunity here and commit yourselves to being actively involved in campus life, and discover ways in which you can contribute to the College’s legacy of excellence.

You are entering this institution at a time when great changes are taking place, changes in which you will be involved. Within days of commencing your education journey here, you will have the distinct honour of being among the first students of The University of The Bahamas.

 

I would  like to thank you for your commitment to excellence and wish to remind  you of your responsibilities to your donor, the Government and people of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

We believe and are committed to  spending the resources of the Bahamian people to develop each and every one of you. It is a part of the social contract that we who govern must do all in our power to provide for those who require a lift.

Let me stress one thing.  The funding that you will have comes about through the taxes of the ordinary man and woman on the street.  And while you might not be in a position to express your gratitude to each and every one of your fellow Bahamians, you can do so, symbolically, by excelling in your studies so that without being selfish, you can give something back to your fellow citizens and help in his and her development through divers ways.

We are counting on your research, innovation, and enterprise so that we are able to continue this cycle of giving and providing for a next generation of deserving Bahamians.

At the end of your educational journey, you will realize the power of education to transform an individual’s life and I hope that your lives become a testimony of the limitless power of education.

As you begin this new and exciting chapter in your lives be assured that you have the support of all of us. Your success is our success – your individual victories are our country’s triumphs!

On behalf of the people of this great country, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, I would like to once again congratulate the scholarship recipients, the parents and guardians, as well as the total spectrum of the educational system for producing scholars of excellence.

We may not be all that we can be but you are evidence that you are well on your way.

I wish The College of The Bahamas – soon to be The University of The Bahamas – every success in its future endeavours as it continues in its rich legacy of providing a world-class education for the citizens of The Bahamas.

Thank you and good evening.

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