Students soar in Ministry of Education’s visual arts competition

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly with Serena Price, a student of Chaguanas North Secondary who placed third in the ministry’s visual arts competition on February 19. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

Mickiah Augustus’ painting, inspired by the popular Caribbean folk song Mango Vert, Mango Teen, took the top spot at the Ministry of Education’s Visual Arts, Performing Arts (VAPA) Folk Fest visual competition.

The 16-year-old Form Five student from ASJA Boys’ College in Charlieville was all smiles as he collected his gold medal and $600 art supplier voucher. The Angostura-sponsored prize-giving ceremony was held at the Ministry of Education (MoE) Towers on Monday.

Augustus spoke with Newsday after the ceremony and said that although this was not his first time entering an art competition, it was his first time winning.

“Since I was small, I always liked art, as far as I remember. I would grab a pencil, scribble and draw. And little by little, my skills improved.”

He described the process of creating his winning artwork as smooth, simple, and fun, saying he used paper, acrylic paint and cotton to bring the texture of a sucked mango seed to life, along with markers and coloured pencils.

“I have another painting of a guy eating that I did for another competition. So the idea was to improve it and make it better, and it came out better with this one. So the idea was already there, just to put the groundwork done and fix it up.”

Shazana Hasmatally took second place, winning a silver medal and a $500 art supply voucher. The Fyzabad Secondary School student also won most creative artwork.

Serena Price from Chaguanas North Secondary School took the third spot, winning a bronze medal and a $500 art supply voucher.

In the school category, ASJA Boys’ College was awarded first place, a trophy and a $1,000 art supply voucher. Fyzabad Secondary was awarded second place, a trophy and an $800 art supply voucher while Chaguanas North Secondary was awarded third place, a trophy and a $100 art supply voucher.

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, in the feature address, said her ministry’s portfolio was not just about children going to school and getting certificates but creating citizens who will drive the country’s development regionally and globally. She called the competition a preservation of traditional customs and stories.

She reminded guests that the students the ministry is nurturing would be the country’s leaders.

She said the ministry was measuring its success every day, every month and every term with data provided by school administrators, which it deems important for decisions and crucial in creating citizens that embody discipline, tolerance and production.

Gadsby-Dolly acknowledged the work ahead before turning her attention to the students to congratulate them on their work, saying she looks forward to a more developed country in the sense of discipline, tolerance and production.

She spoke on her ministry’s national developmental agenda, Vision 2030, aimed at governance and successive governance towards policies and procedures, saying it is supposed to trickle into the classroom and home as a guide.

She thanked the sponsor, Angostura Ltd, for its participation.

“When we have Angostura assisting the ministry in carrying out its mandate, we have to recognise and applaud. It may not be immediately obvious why business and education are so closely linked, but where does the business sector get its human resources from? And anyone in business can tell you that the most important thing is their human resources.”

Gadsby-Dolly described her act as an incubator for developing citizens, saying that once it is done the correct way, the business community will have a wonderful pool to choose from.

The minister said a more formal and structured way is needed to make partnerships easier between government and business.

Gadsby-Dolly announced that on Tuesday, Angostura will be part of the ministry’s business breakfast forum, along with other officials, where she will be speaking to the business community about ways in which all stakeholders can work together through partnerships.

She celebrated businesses that have been engaging in corporate responsibility but said despite this, some schools do not benefit from it as much as others.

“We also want to introduce the question of equity, where all schools have access to some level of resources from outside the government that can benefit our students. Because education is everyone’s business.”

Gadsby-Dolly challenged the public to post positive videos of the work being done by students.

“Let’s see that go viral.”

She said there are over 250,000 students in the school system, most of whom are doing what they are supposed to. She thanked the school administration and staff in the curriculum division for their continued commitment to education.

“We have students doing good things, and we at the ministry want to encourage them to do that. That’s why the competitions come in. It gives them a little incentive to do more. That’s where it comes in. And we, as initiatives, have to facilitate that. If you want something, you have to select it. How do you select it? You incentivise it in a positive way. And the business community is our valuable partner in doing this.”

The minister said the competition will be held again next year.

“We have to do our part. The business community will do their part, our parents and teachers will do their part. When we all work together, we will begin to see the results we are looking for 20 years from now.”

Angostura executive manager Sophie-Charles Baker said when Angostura was approached by the MoE to sponsor prizes, the company “wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity” and sponsored all the prizes.

“Our long-standing association with the ministry, which has graciously supported our various educational youth development programmes over the years, makes this partnership even more meaningful. Education and youth development are not just buzzwords for us; they are the cornerstones of our corporate social responsibility programmes.”

She commended the MoE for what she called a remarkable initiative competition aimed at nurturing and showcasing the talents of secondary school students in the realm of visual and performing arts.

“This competition, which provided a platform for students in forms one to three to display their creativity and artistic abilities, is not just about celebrating talent. It’s about instilling in our youth a profound appreciation of our nation’s cultural heritage. For Angostura, it is an honour to support.”