bele for the PM: Gracie Phillips of the Mt Cullane Cultural Group dances the bele as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, centre, arrives for yesterday's opening of UTT's Scarborough campus in Tobago. —Photo: MICHEAL BRUCE

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PM seeks to reverse Tobago brain drain

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

There is a brain drain in Tobago, and the people are caught in a vicious cycle where they are forced to leave the sister isle and not return due to the lack of educational and employment opportunities, says Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Persad-Bissessar made the statement at the launch of the Public Transport Service Corporation's (PTSC) and National Energy Skills Centre's (NESC) school and workforce assessment centre in Tobago yesterday.

The Prime Minister, for the past couple weeks in the run-up to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election on Monday, has been attending various official functions in Tobago, launching a number of projects undertaken by her Government.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister focused on the area of education and assured that with Ashworth Jack as the next chief secretary, Tobago will become an educational hub in the Caribbean.

She noted that people have left Tobago and not returned because there were no jobs available.

Persad-Bissessar disclosed there was a Cabinet note since 2004 which detailed a programme of activities, in terms of the expansion of tertiary education in Tobago, but it is her Government, eight years later, that is making it a reality.

"What we have seen over the years in Tobago is a brain drain, and what we are now seeking to do is to give to Tobago, work with Tobago, to give a brain gain back to Tobago. You have the talent, you have the capability, but what you do not have are the opportunities right here in the land of your birth," said Persad-Bissessar.

Tobago, she said, must benefit from access to quality training and education if there is to be a brain gain growth.

Tobagonians, she said, made great sacrifices by leaving their homes to come to Trinidad to access tertiary education.

Persad-Bissessar said her Government has already made great strides in education in Tobago, having established the MIC/YTEPP Tobago Technology Centre, the largest training facility of its kind in Tobago.

The technology centre, she said, was established to provide training in developmental areas such as computing, entrepreneurship, patient care, cosmetology, data operations, commercial food preparation, electrical installation and other areas.

Her Government, she said, also delivered a mobile computer training lab in Tobago through the Youth Training Employment and Partnership Programme (YTEPP). The mobile bus came through a collaboration between YTEPP and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is used to provide computer-based training to persons throughout the island.

Persad-Bissessar added that her Government delivered the Tobago student caravan and established a digital map of registered and accredited tertiary level institutions by the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago.

In addition, Persad-Bissessar pointed out that a new campus of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) was launched in Scarborough, Tobago, earlier in the day yesterday.

At that launch, Persad-Bissessar disclosed that the integrated university campus will be constructed in East Tobago some time in the near future.

She noted that research has shown that tertiary education increases the income a person makes and also creates wealth and opportunities for the nation.

"Education is the passport out of poverty," said Persad-Bissesar, adding when Tobago is transformed into an education hub, it would also attract tourism as it has another product to offer besides the sun, sea and sand.

The Prime Minister also assured that her Government had no intention of closing the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses programme (GATE) but will continue its expansion.

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