Hillview College Graduation Address
Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2005
By Stephen Kangal
On Thursday 13 October 2005
Forty -Sixth Graduation Ceremony
Today we honour and pay tribute to our 46th class of graduates. You the graduates have applied themselves in true Hillview tradition. You have accordingly brought honour and glory to yourselves, your parents and the Greater Tunapuna community as well as to your Alma Mater, Hillview College. You have also brought glory and renown to Trinidad and Tobago because you attained top world ranking in Mathematics and Physics.
Fiftieth Golden Anniversary
This ceremony is also being held to commemorate a landmark event- the Golden, 50th Anniversary of Hillview College. From the humble makeshift beginnings in Sherrif Street in Tunapuna to this modern educational plant located in a most idyllic setting.
I congratulate all those students who have received Certificates based on the results of the CXC and the Cambridge Advanced Level Examinations.
May I also convey to the Chairman of the Administrative Committee of Hillview College as well as to The Principal my sincerest gratitude and deep appreciation for having kindly extended to me in my capacity as member of the First Graduating Class of Hillview College, this unique and special opportunity to deliver the Feature Graduation address this evening on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the College.
You have done me and our pioneering class of 1955 a great honour by inviting me to speak to this distinguished assembly on this very historic occasion. I will do so with great humility.
I have always cherished and strengthened the very close emotional link and connexion that binds and conjoins us the graduates to this College- our BELOVED ALMA MATER This connexion is what I have always fondly regarded as the Hillview Imperative- the student-school bonding and relationship.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Early and Humble Beginnings
On 17 January 1955, more than 50 years ago, a group of students that included our current Chief Justice The Honourable Mr. Justice Sat Sharma assembled at Sherrif Street in Tunapuna in a make-shift building to launch what has evolved as the success story of Hillview College. We feel a sense of achievement to have been the pioneers of the great Hillview legacy- to have initiated the Hillview social mission. That old building located in Sherrif Street, the current Minister of Education would have found to be unfit even for early childhood education. But we persevered with God's help, the support of the Aramalaya Congregation and succeeded against enormous odds.
This Hillview mission was geared to serve as a catalyst:
* For human capital development;
* for pushing the transformation process of T&T from an agrarian society to one that is now industrial, knowledge-based but also agri-based.
* for the total development of the human personality to equip our graduates to respond positively and adequately to the challenges of the external operating environment.
From today you graduates are expected to become missionaries bearing the good news of Hillview College to the world. You are each a firefly trained and equipped to light the way in an area of darkness. You must be like the flickering lights of the deyas on Divali.
Our initial teaching staff in 1955 consisted of the late Rev. Harold Swann, Effle Mohammed and Stephen Alisharan. When we occupied this Hall as our first classroom in 1957 the terrazo floor was still wet. No secondary school today in T&T will begin in the same surroundings as the humble beginnings of Hillview College. Hillview has now risen to the top. It is the school of first choice of students from 36 primary schools stretching from Sangre Grande to San Juan as well as to Couva in the central heartland. You the students have a mission and sacred duty to defend, preserve and enhance this image.
What is This Hillview Mission?
Beginning 1955, Hillview College has made fifty years of outstanding contribution:
* to nation- building
* to educational excellence;
* to fostering and promoting social and economic mobility and equality;
* to the development and transformation of our untutored and vital human capital living within the suburban and rural communities of the East-West Corridor.
Urban-based Secondary Education in the 50's
Hillview College started in Tunapuna in 1955. Access to secondary education then was largely the exclusive preserve of the urban-based populations of the cities of Port of Spain and San Fernando. The Presbyterian Church broke this urban strangle hold by establishing SAGHS in 1950 at the corner of the EMR and Austin Street, St. Augustine outside of the cities.
That was also the era in which secondary education, except for the state-established QRC and St. George's College, was pioneered by the churches. I will later in this address give my own take on the need to reinforce and expand the merits of this tried, proven and successful system of denominational secondary education. This is the system that gives us choice.
Today we are also celebrating the crowning achievement of the College in its 50th year by winning for a third time the coveted President's Medal by our very own Amrik Singh Kochhar in the Mathematics, Science and Environmental Science category. Amrik placed first in the world in Further Mathematics and fourth in Physics. Aiyejina placed 5th and Anderson St. Hill placed 6th in the world in Further Maths. The College also secured 12 other Scholarships. In fact the 5 Presbyterian Secondary Schools won 70 of the 200 Scholarships on offer. Take a bow Mr. Gardner.
Let me offer my congratulations to the Principal and staff for continuing to forge, deepen and expand a teaching/learning culture of excellence and relevance. We are proud to be Hillview. I also extend congratulations to SAGHS and Lakshmi Girls' College for securing scholarships as well.
Participation in the Alumni Association
I earlier referred to the loyalty and bonding spirit shown by the early graduates. Mr. Chairman, today it is challenging to the Hillview College Alumni Association to get past students to realise and appreciate that they have a continuing moral and ethical duty and obligation to contribute to the further enhancement of the Hillview legacy. You the graduates have a natural duty, having regard to the many training and development benefits that you have derived from Hillview- to give back to mother Hillview something that can help to expand and consolidate the Hillview legacy. Gratitude breeds grandeur. Graduates you cannot achieve genuine success, however phenomenal without first manifesting gratitude.
This Hillview legacy that I speak of is:
* firstly, as a place of educational excellence;
* secondly, for Hillview to continue to open career development paths and excite new goals for all our students;
* thirdly, for Hillview to continue to inspire and evolve a sound code of spiritual and sound moral values and personal attributes. It is this that can serve as a potent antidote to counteract the current decline and decay of the moral and social fabric of our society.
May I issue an appeal to this 2005 class of graduates to participate in the activities of the Alumni Association. After 50 years of Hillview's existence we do not have a viable and credible vehicle to channel responses of gratitude of the graduates in terms that are beneficial to the Hillview legacy.
Gratitude to Parents
Today is the day dedicated to recognise, reward and celebrate not only the outstanding academic success achieved by all our graduants. I am also sure that you graduants will want me to pay tribute and to recognise the joint contribution of the staff as well as of you the devoted, loving, caring and supportive parents. The critical parenting role tends to get marginalised at graduation ceremonies over the euphoria generated by the excellent achievements of our children. But I want to recognise and pay tribute to the parents of our graduants.
The Parent-Teacher Association
I must pay tribute to the Hillview College Parent-Teacher Association. Since the inception of Hillview, the PTA has supported the school to achieve its mission that I referred to earlier. The PTA has contributed to a culture in which the students assume a sense of ownership of and loyalty to Hillview because of the active involvement of their parents in assisting the school and interfacing with the staff.
School Boards in the State System
In this context I wish to welcome the introduction of the School Board experiment in state-run secondary schools. Management boards are successfully used by the churches including the Hillview Administrative Committee. The composition of such boards in State schools must be insulated from political patronage and favouritism because the education of our children must be freed from our own brand of divisive polarised politics. All the management and technical resources present in the host communities must be harnessed for the success of the Government School Board system. If not, it will fail due to political contamination.
The Emergence of the Concordat
When Hillview began in 1955 it immediately preceded the emergence of the nationalist movement spawned during the 1956 full internal government elections. The granting of assisted government status in 1957 to Naparima College, Tunapuna Branch as Hillview was then known up to 1964 was touch and go. The new nationalist movement wanted to monopolise all aspects of national life including education. This culminated in the Concordat concluded between the churches and Government of 1960 that placed an embargo on further school building and expansion by the churches.
Today in spite of consistently delivering quality education there is a moratorium on school building by the denominational boards even though these schools are community-inspired, community- based and community- managed and driven schools. They are in fact superior to the 17 State Companies established to carry out projects and deliver services. But why is the creation of these 17 State Companies right and further expansion of the denominational system of education wrong? Why?
Constitutional Right to Choice of Schools
We the Citizens and parents enjoy a constitutional right enshrined in Part I (4) (f) of our Constitution to select the schools in which we wish our children to be educated. The church secondary schools to which Cabinet Ministers send their children have outperformed the State system both in terms of excellence of the final product as well as in achieving a stable, almost incident-free teaching-learning environment and a physical plant that is non-vandalised. Why not allow this success story of community-driven education to work and expand for the benefit of our multicultural community? Church schools constitute a form of effective decentralisation of the management of the educational system?
May I take the opportunity today to pay tribute to the late Roy Joseph, Former Minister of Education in the Executive Council of 1950-56 for the critical role he played in encouraging and facilitating the expansion of the denominational system that has always delivered total quality education. As for Hillview we cannot thank adequately the late Canadian Missionaries such Reverends Swann, Alcorn and Kirkpatrick- all who served as former Principals.
Ten years ago a feature speaker at a graduation function was expected to provide Hillview graduates with some guidelines and advice on how to enter and perform well on the job market. But this has changed. You graduants are not about to enter the world of work just yet.
The Societal Challenge
Today we launch you the brilliant and intellectually mature A Level graduants into the wider world away from the safety net and protection provided by the Hillview Community. Most of you now must proceed to tertiary education having regard to the current free access to University education effective 1 January 2006.
You the promising O' Level graduates must approach your A' Level studies with a broader vision:
* that will identify your future career paths;
* enhance the reputation of Hillview College;
* and improve the school environment.
I need not remind you all that O and A Level passes do not know qualify you for meaningful employment. Both A and O Level graduants must now aim to be part of 30% target enrolment at the tertiary level.
The Nature of the Societal Environment
What then must be your response to the new challenges that we the multicultural community of T&T face? You the graduants must address and factor these growing challenges:
* in forging your future career paths;
* training and development initiatives?
* Your preparation for your nation-building role
* In your plans to make a difference in T&T
Never in the history of Hillview College graduations must an understanding of the fundamentally changed social, economic and technological environment in T&T occupy such a pivotal place in the career determination of you the graduating class. That is the societal challenge.
His Excellency The President Professor George Maxwell Richards, The Honourable Chief Justice Sat Sharma and the Principal of UWI have recently alluded to the crime/Kidnapping pandemic that is ravishing Mother T&T.
The Leadership Crisis in T&T
We also have a crisis of leadership in T&T in spite of our affluence and our high levels of literacy. The country needs a new cadre of leaders who can help us- a multicultural community of communities to realise our full potential as gifted and well-endowed people. Those challenges manifest themselves within our immediate community level, at the national as well as at the globalised level.
You graduants must kindle a community consciousness geared to improve the lot of your own home and school communities that nurtured you. The villages need leaders and activists to articulate their legitimate concerns. In T&T there is sadly a correlation between illegal agitation, demonstrations, burning tyres and blocking the roads and the delivery of your entitlements- to get basic community needs. That is how uncivilised and uncaring we have become.
Those of you graduates proceeding to A' Level studies at Hillview have an obligation to seek out and assist slow learners in the lower forms of Hillview. This is called Peer Group Learning. It is also an expression of the volunteer culture into which you graduates must immerse yourselves.
It may help to reduce the O' Level failure rate considerably. You can make a difference even in the life of one lower form student.
Loyalty and Patriotism
You must develop within your psyche a commitment to Trinidad and Tobago. You must put a stop to the brain drain that is a form of injustice to Dharti Mai T&T. You cannot be obsessed exclusively with developing your professional career to promote your own well being - to achieve all the trimmings and trappings of material, professional and social success. We need genuine nation- builders and real community leaders as well. We need models for our youths to emulate and surpass. You the graduants have to nurture patriotism and loyalty to T&T. You cannot assess your civic role exclusively by how well you do professionally. You must develop a social and community-oriented conscience. You must cultivate honesty and integrity- the spiritual side to your personality. You cannot afford to be sucked into the sub-culture of drink, drugs, drive and death on our roads. That is robbing us of some of our vital human resource. Order Graduates! Please do not cross the border! Heaven's first law is obedience to your parents and teachers. Drugs and weaponry do no make you a big man!
That is the standard of ethical conduct that your motto HUMANI NIHIL ALIENUM expects of you the members of the Hillview community. Your life must be humanity-centred and people driven.
You graduates must go back to basics. That will be the true measure of genuine success.
THANK YOU GRADUATING CLASS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
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