The evolution of education in the Cayman Islands has taken a major step forward with an innovative move by the Ministry of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports and Culture to secure official corporate support for high schools.
Two of the Islands’ leading companies – Digicel and Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Limited – have donated a total of CI$100,000 in the interest of shaping young minds, and building brighter futures, said a GIS press release.
There are already early successes resulting from these significant commitments, and these companies have now started a mentoring programme for staff and students alike.
With the goal of advancing the four high schools on the George Hicks Campus, these local companies are working side-by-side with officials from the Education Ministry and Department, as well as school leaders and senior management from Leading Edge, PACE, New Horizons and Heritage High schools.
‘This new learning formula is an integral part of our reform process, which is driven by the needs of all its stakeholders,’ said Education Minister Alden McLaughlin. ‘We have long promoted the value of partnership and community involvement in bringing the maximum benefit to students.’
He added, ‘The significant investment of these two respected local businesses is a clear indicator of their commitment to the community, and the philosophy that responsibility for education reform must be shared by the whole community, if it is to truly benefit the whole community.
‘I respect them for their vision, and hope that we have set a precedent for similar partnership opportunities.’
Hands on support
Digicel and Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Limited are both committing more than their chequebooks to the partnership. The two firms have dedicated their management and staff to forging meaningful relationships with school leaders and teachers, and having regular interaction with students.
The process began last year, when company representatives visited each of the four George Hicks schools, and made inspirational assembly presentations, and presented books and school bags to students. Speakers have included Butterfield Bank’s Director Sheree Ebanks and Marketing and Communications Manager Karin Frewin, and Digicel’s Business Solutions Manager John Byrne.
The companies’ development of relationships with school leaders and teachers, and undertaking a mentoring approach to working with them throughout the school year, is a key component of this programme. They will also work with students to enhance their knowledge of opportunities, as well as the work-ethic expectations of employers.
The Education Ministry’s Strategic Development Advisor (Education) Gareth Long said, ‘Producing positive, forward-thinking young people, who are keen to pursue higher education in a range of fields, is the intended end result. Not only does this benefit the students, but also the employers who will ultimately receive them.’
He added that several coaching sessions have already taken place between school leaders and senior executives from both companies, with a view to encourage the educators to plan their schools with a business-style approach. There are also plans for similar professional development opportunities for all school staff.
‘In implementing the partnership, the best interest of students will decide the considerations and actions. Their holistic development will remain at the forefront, with an emphasis on related areas such as social skills and job preparation,’ said Mr. Byrne of Digicel.
In thanking the companies for their generous contributions, and commending all involved in this new education development exercise, Mr. Long added, ‘These are indeed much-welcomed developments, and represent a significant evolution in the vital practice of corporate sponsorship and support of our schools.’
He noted that there has traditionally been, and continues to be, many opportunities for other companies to enhance the local education.
‘There is much community buy-in to this reform process, and we are grateful for the support that is evident from parents, families and the wider society,’ Mr. Long said.