STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, YOUTH AFFAIRS & SPORTS
HONOURABLE SHARIE B. DE CASTRO
AT THE FIFTH SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FIFTH
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS ON
THE 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF SECONDARY EDUCATION IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
TUESDAY 31ST OCTOBER, 2023
Madam Speaker, this year we commemorate the 80th anniversary of secondary education in the Virgin Islands, a milestone that reflects the dedication and vision of stalwart educators and the unwavering commitment of our community. The history of secondary education in our territory is a testament to the enduring spirit of those who championed the cause of knowledge and opportunity.
Madam Speaker, eight decades ago, in 1938, Dr. Norwell Harrigan and Mr. Olva Flax laid the foundation for extending education beyond standard seven, advocating for the establishment of a secondary school that would provide higher education and training up to the standards of Junior Cambridge and Oxford School Leaving Certificates.
Their vision became a reality in 1943 when the Senior School was inaugurated, offering a curriculum that encompassed a wide range of subjects, including English, History, Geography, Geometry, Drawing, Home Economics, and Hygiene. I also take this opportunity to acknowledge Dr. Thomas Dixon Green's pivotal role as the Supervisor of Education and Headmaster during this critical period.
Madam Speaker, the early years of secondary education in the Virgin Islands were fraught with challenges, and by 1947, the school's existence was under threat. It was the dedication of community activists that ensured its survival. The moment of stability arrived with the students' success at the Cambridge Examinations, prompting the renaming of the institution to the Virgin Islands Secondary School.
Madam Speaker, the impact of secondary education on the development of our territory has been profound. The fact that students from distant communities, were willing to walk the extra mile to access this education demonstrates that as a community, we have long recognized the value of a good education. Secondary education has not only expanded opportunities for our youth but has also significantly contributed to the overall progress and growth of the Virgin Islands.
As we mark this remarkable milestone, Madam Speaker, it is only fitting that we pay homage to the visionaries, educators, and activists who have played pivotal roles in shaping our educational landscape over the past eight decades. The legacy of secondary education in the Virgin Islands is one of resilience, determination, and the relentless pursuit of knowledge, and it continues to light the way for our future generations.
Thus, the Ministry of Education takes this opportunity to shine a light on the indelible mark left by two stalwart educators in secondary education in the Virgin Islands who recently transitioned.
Madam Speaker, we salute the late Alfred Christopher, one of the first students of the Senior School in 1943, who went on to become a pupil teacher and a local department head during the school's growth in 1970. His instrumental role in extending secondary education to Anegada in the late seventies as an Education Officer is a testament to his dedication to education.
Madam Speaker, we also honour the legacy of the late Jennie N. Wheatley (MBE), a beacon of knowledge, a culture-bearer, and a true Virgin Islands Patriot. Mrs. Wheatley devoted over twenty-five years of her life to secondary education in our territory and served as Assistant Principal for Academic Affairs at the British Virgin Islands High School. Her leadership in developing the school library and countless transformational initiatives has left an indelible mark on the institution and the entire territory.
Madam Speaker, today I pause to honour the contributions of all valiant secondary educators in our territory, whose dedication and sacrifices over the years collectively contributed to the development of a great institution. Their impact on our education system and the future of the Virgin Islands is immeasurable.
In closing, Madam Speaker, let us celebrate this milestone with gratitude for those who have paved the way for our students' success and a brighter future for the Virgin Islands.
The journey of secondary education in our territory, spanning 80 years, is a testament of our collective spirit and unwavering commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and excellence as we commit to moving Virgin Islands Education: Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead.
Thank you Madam Speaker!