Russell Latapy School gets steelpan manufacturing facility

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Local football icon Russell Latapy takes a photo with students of the Russell Latapy Secondary School at the official opening of the TSL Foundation Steelpan Manufacturing Facility in Morvant on May 14. At left is acting principal Stacy Alcantara. – Photo by Roger Jacob

STUDENTS of Russell Latapy Secondary School (RLSS) now have a space dedicated to steelpan manufacturing.

On May 14, the school opened its solar-powered steelpan manufacturing facility at its Morvant compound. The Trinidad Systems Ltd (TSL) Foundation Steelpan Manufacturing Facility will help students complete the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) in steelpan manufacturing.

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly attended the opening ceremony, along with representatives from from corporate sponsors including the TSL Foundation, Angostura Ltd, Shell TT, United Independent Petroleum Marketing Co Ltd (Unipet), Trinidad Cement Ltd and more.

Acting principal Stacy Alcantara delivered the opening remarks. She expressed her appreciation for the corporate assistance to complete the facility.

She said the school’s journey toward opening it represented the determination of the institution.

“It really brings tears to my eyes when I consider how we started. I would tell these students, ‘Well, you know, the pioneers didn’t have a big fancy building.’ We would go under the trees and in the classrooms, but you know what? We got the job done.

“And since 2018, we have had students who have successfully participated in that programme (steelpan manufacturing).

“That resilience, that determination, is what we have to offer at Russell Latapy School.

“It has been a long journey, but for me, it has been one of love… Love for the children, culture, community and the national instrument.”

TSL Foundation chair Nicole Galt said the foundation was happy to play a role in building the facility and contributing to cultural continuity.

“The TSL Foundation is very pleased to bring this facility into fruition in just one year. Pan manufacturing is a subject on the school syllabus under the CVQ programme. In addition, it is part of Trinidad and Tobago’s culture.

“Some say the art of manufacturing is almost extinct, so this is an opportune time for both students and our country to benefit from this facility.”

She said the facility would be run by a solar-powered system installed by Unipet, and would also be used to educate the students on solar technology.

Unipet’s international business growth team lead Alicia Riley said, “The school’s decision to embrace solar power is more than just a technological upgrade, it is a powerful symbol of their commitment to environmental stewardship, their belief in the power of innovation and dedication to a sustainable future.

“This ceremony demonstrates the power of collective action. It is a beacon of hope for a greener, healthier planet for future generations.”

Angostura’s chief operating officer Ian Forbes also noted the cultural significance of the steelpan facility.

“By supporting the expansion of CVQ offerings in schools, we are not only investing in the future of our youth, but nurturing the preservation of our cultural heritage. This collaboration underscores our commitment to empower students with valuable skills while celebrating the rich traditions of TT.”

Gadsby-Dolly delivered the feature address and expressed her gratitude to corporate TT for supporting the education sector. She said the government is working to formalise education philanthropy to ensure its benefits are spread equitably across all schools.

“No government can do it alone and the government always welcomes the help from corporate TT. Education philanthropy is not new to TT; we just never really used that term, and that is what we are trying to do at the Ministry of Education, formalise this so that other schools who do not traditionally get help can be in the limelight to get this assistance.”