Government Commissioner Alida Francis. General assembly, start of new school year Gwendoline van Putten School

Thank you, principal Fleur Lagcher for your kind invitation! Thanks to the teachers and students for the wonderful welcome!

It is such an honour to begin the new academic year with you; and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate your future than to announce that construction of your new, state-of-the-art school building begins next week.  

I have longstanding relationship with the Gwendoline van Putten School (GvP) and therefore it is always a pleasure to speak your general assembly.

Let me start by telling you that you have a new director who has been involved in all aspects of education improvements in the BES islands since the transition on 10-10-10. Fleur Lagcher started as the Quartermaster for Education in 2010 and later became the Director of OCW/RCN Unit. She comes to this position with a wealth of experience and knowledge that will greatly benefit this institution.

Today, I came to deliver a prepared speech. However, a discussion on social media yesterday has triggered me to highlight the importance of culture. This general assembly has become part of the school culture at the GvP.

You were just beckoned to rise for the singing of the Golden Rock song - our national anthem - and not everyone was excited or moved fast to stand in respect of the Golden Rock Song. As Statians you must always be ready to stand at attention to pay respect to the Golden Rock Song.

The prayer is also part of the general assembly culture. As a Christian community, prayer is an expression of our gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for and must use every given opportunity to express gratitude.

Now back to the real reason for me to focus attention on the importance of culture. As mentioned, due to a debate yesterday on social media about the new rules of the GvP school I learned that some students are not happy with some of the GvP school rules. As a youngster I did not always like rules. But I learned to understand and appreciate the relevance of rules. Today I want to impress upon you that matters like this are not resolved on social media. I implore you, that when there are rules and regulations you do not agree with, to use a more constructive manner to address the changes and improvements that you wish to see. A great place to start would be to come together as a student body, discuss among yourselves first and afterwards request a meeting with the school management and see how to have your views heard and where possible included. Trust me, no one is trying to make your lives miserable by introducing rules.

Today there are several institutions present here to support you not just in this academic year, but throughout your educational journey. Represented here today are the Police, ECE, Social Domain, Tourism Office, School Board etc.

The start of a new school year is like a new dawn, and a new dawn is an opportunity for a fresh chance. It gives birth to new hopes and new goals for life. It paves new paths for your journey to maturity. It exposes new ways and means to make life better. It is a new chance for a fresh start to the remainder of your academic life.

Therefore, I implore you to grasp what lies ahead this academic year and do not let it go to waste. After all, education is a precious gift that allows you to grow fully with wisdom; and it strengthens your ability to judge right from wrong, good from bad, what lifts you up and what drags you down.

In fact, education is more than just preparing you to make a living. Through education we transmit the best of our culture to our youth, preserve our heritage, and arm you with knowledge and moral principles that will serve you well through life.

So, as you begin the new academic year, I encourage you to be courageous, be strong and be prepared to conquer the hurdles that can so easily distract you. And go determined to make your teachers proud, to make your parents proud, and most importantly, to make yourself proud.

Thanks, and I wish you every success.