NPTA wants THA to provide internships for secondary students

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Students of Signal Hill Secondary School in Scarborough. – File photo

NATIONAL PARENT-Teacher Association (NPTA) president Walter Stewart has called on the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to establish an internship programme for the island’s fourth- and fifth-form students.

He made the call in his address at the association’s 64th mid-year convention at the Hampden/Lowlands Multipurpose Facility, Tobago, on May 25.

Stewart said too often young people apply for jobs after finishing secondary school but are not considered because they lack experience.

“Many times you make an application to corporate Trinidad and Tobago and the request is, ‘Do you have experience?’ How and where will the experience come for a 19-year-old who has now left school?

“If there is an internship programme in our schools and corporate Tobago is willing to take some of our students in form four and five during the August vacation…when they come out at age 19 they will have that experience.”

He said he recently spoke to a woman whose 22-year-old son has a master’s degree but cannot find a job.

“It speaks to the job market, but it also speaks to the mismatch between skills and the job market. In other words, if we assess what the job market needs and channel our charges in that direction, it might help to ease some of the frustration that our students are now facing in our schools when they come out.”

Stewart said for this reason the NPTA had specifically invited Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Curtis Williams to the convention. But he did not attend.

“Very early when we came into office, the executive met with the Tobago Chamber to partner with them to ensure they got corporate assistance in our schools, because the government cannot do it alone, the THA cannot do it alone.

“So very soon we want to put a proposal to the THA in order to ask the assembly to endorse an internship programme.”

He is hoping the Division of Education, Research and Technology, led by Zorisha Hackett, will endorse the proposal.

Stewart also called for specialist teachers in reading and literacy to be introduced in schools “as a matter of urgency.

“We have to ensure that mechanisms are put in place to address the educational setbacks and that all of our children have access to quality education in TT.”

Lamenting the high illiteracy rate among primary schoolchildren in Tobago, Stewart said he recently attended a conference for primary school principals at which Diane Baker-Henry, administrator in the THA Division of Education, echoed these sentiments.

He added a UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) report said recently that 80 per cent of Caribbean primary schoolchildren cannot read proficiently.

“Not my words, UNICEF. And I think it is about time that we look at specialist teachers with regard to reading.

“There is a need for us parents, there is a need for us teachers, there is need at the Tobago level to ensure that all of our students have an awareness of literacy and the importance of literacy.”

He said his younger daughter had challenges with reading while she was in standard one.“Reading affects all the other subject areas. She couldn’t do her maths. She couldn’t do her social studies, language arts. And we had to address that situation and ensure that we got additional help in order to assist with her reading.

“Reading is an integral part of any society and of course, we need to encourage reading among our students.”

In this regard, Stewart applauded the Mucurapo Girls’ and Boys’ RC Schools for their online reading programme, held every Wednesday at 7.30pm. The schools are in the Port of Spain education division.