Another embarrassing episode is staring the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in the face as it runs the risk of shirking another sub-regional commitment due to financial problems.
The Territory was scheduled to host the Leeward Islands Debating Competition – an annual event that each of the different participating countries hosts.
The Literary and Debating Society at Elmore Stoutt High School was given ample time to prepare to host this year’s competition.
But, at the eleventh hour, information has surfaced that the actual planning hasn’t started.
The club doesn’t have funds to start it, and the response from Government appears lacklusture.
A former member of the school’s debating club, who uses the name Mariam Jallow on the Facebook, brought the matter to public attention yesterday.
She wrote: “Current and former members of the club, including myself, have expressed our disappointment and frustrations to the Ministry of Education; and requested a meeting with officials and the Minister [of Education Myron Walwyn] so we could hopefully discuss alternative solutions to the problem. Unfortunately, these attempts were to no avail.”
“Seven years to prepare, and we are still unprepared. If little St Maarten could host it, if little Nevis could host it, why can’t we? This competition is one of the only government-funded opportunities for students not specializing in athletics to network, learn, and represent the British Virgin Islands. We send students away to run, jump and give their all to show the world what this country is about. Just this once – was it too much to ask to show the world that, in a battle of intellect, we can come out on top too?”
Jallow added that, if the BVI does not live up to its obligation, it runs the risk of being seen in a bad light. “To know that the BVI will no longer be able to present itself as a nation which breeds intellectuals and supports the educational ventures of its students disheartens me greatly,” she said.
Minister of Education Myron Wlaywn, who responded to the concerns raised on the BVI Community Board (Facebook), invited Jallow to a meeting this morning. She readily accepted the invitation.
Walwyn also posted, “I am not sure through whom you requested to meet with me, but this is the very first time that I’m hearing of your request [for a meeting].”
The minister also stated that some of the information presented about the developments are false. But, when contacted by BVI News Online, he declined to give his version of what transpired.
He, instead, told BVI News Online: “The Government of the Virgin Islands, through the Ministry of Education, continues to provide excellent opportunities for young people interested in many different disciplines, including debates which we see inter alia as very important to improving the intellectual capacity of our students. We have worked assiduously over the years to improve the education system in the territory, and I think we have made substantial progress.”
“I am aware of the situation surrounding the hosting of the Leeward Islands debates in the territory, and I also saw the comments made surrounding this matter on social media. As I mentioned in a brief reply, there is a severe deficit of the facts surrounding the issue, and I do not believe that those comments would have been made if persons possessed the full knowledge of the situation. Nonetheless, the ministry will always – as it has done in the past, seek to find positive outcomes in every situation,” the education minister further told BVI News Online.
Not the first time
Meanwhile, it is not the first time that the BVI is being cast in a bad light regarding its handling of regional and sub-regional events.
Last year, the BVI Cricket Association was threatened with disciplinary action after the territory withdrew suddenly from a regional tournament, much to the wrath of the regional organizers – the Leeward Islands Cricket Association. “It is just not acceptable for a member to pull out 48 hours prior to the commencement of a tournament,” the regional body told the BVI Cricket Board.
And, in July last year, the BVI Teachers Union, at the last minute, declared that it could not find enough money to properly house various countries that were to participate in a regional athletics competition. Makeshift arrangements were eventually made at Elmore Stoutt High School to accommodate the athletes. This event is also hosted by different countries annually.
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