At a time when St. Lucians celebrate the 44th Independence Anniversary of their beautiful country, it was invigorating to witness the National Awards of Excellence. Although, I must admit, that the Ministry of Education was right on target, I wish to take the opportunity to offer some suggestions.
As an educator, both of children and adults, I wish to indicate that humans have a natural, psychological need for respect. And the acknowledgement of their efforts, on a job well done, creates a sense of fulfilment or achievement.
Now recognising and rewarding efforts tend to increase productivity. A card, certificate, trophy, money, like in the business community, could all be used to reward hard work and dedication.
How can people position themselves to be recognised and, very importantly, to receive awards or rewards? Firstly, persons must be aware of the set of rules or criteria for them to be recognised and rewarded. Those rules or criteria for selection could be developed by the group, team, organization, or Ministry. The point is that participants must be clear on the rules or criteria.
Now from my experience, in education, and community development, rewards and recognition improve performance, without any doubt. Rewards and recognition tends to increase performance. It makes people go the extra mile to make things happen.
It also stimulates a spirit of team work which is critical in personal development and the advancement of any organization or group situation.
Another key area in the process of rewards and recognition is feedback. Many times we get so caught up in our work or business that we may not seek feedback from others. Sales persons could tell you how important feedback, positive or negative, is to their business ventures. It helps to improve the product where necessary.
Indeed, the National Awards of Excellence is mainly an academic exercise. The programme highlights student performance in education, and the areas which the programme highlights are excellent. I was very careful to observe the behaviour of recipients of awards. From where I was, I could have felt the pride!
The National Awards of Excellence should embrace many non-academic areas. For example “Economic Awards” for farmers, fishermen. These people feed the nation and produce good quality food.
For several years now, we have not seen the flying fish in St. Lucia. More recently, we had not seen the jackfish. And very recently, I saw the fish mongers with some ‘pig jacks’, and everybody was happy to see and buy the fish again. I ate a few cooked with a little parsley and celery, and that was good! We are yet to see the flying fish on our shores.
Our farmers produce much of the foods which make us healthy. The vegetables, ground provisions, and the many fruits that we enjoy as a nation is as a direct result of the efforts of our famers. And, without any doubt, they would be very happy for them to be recognized at a National Awards Programme hosted by the government.
Now many organizations in St. Lucia recognize their members. I recall here, the St. Lucia Tourism Association; the St. Lucia Teachers Union (SLTU); The St. Lucia Principals Association; the Sporting Associations; the Bakers’ Association; the Carnival Bands Association and several others. Those groups could still continue to recognize and reward their members. But I wish to suggest that the National Awards of Excellence Committee requests nominees from the organized associations to be sent to the national committee. I am suggesting that the most outstanding candidates should be submitted to the National Awards Committee for national recognition.
Indeed, there is a lot of work in my proposals, but I know it could be done with patience and a positive attitude.
Being recognised at the National Level is something recipients won’t forget.
Now what about productivity with our country? Yes there will be increased productivity with the business, or commercial sector. But that would eventually redound to the benefit of the entire nation.
A National Awards of Excellence which caters for or recognises the farmer, fisherman and the baker, would no doubt produce outstanding performers, and bring about personal pride for both the individuals and their families.
Indeed, this is a government that has begun to put people first. And the government is doing well!
Now the National Awards of Excellence may be spread over more than one sitting, because of the number of candidates which would be involved. But I see nothing wrong in having more than one sitting.
Managing people is not an easy exercise. Organizations have to cope with a variety of personalities and a wide variety of attitudes. But on the more positive side, they come with a wide variety of skills which could be tapped into. A National Awards and Recognition of Excellence could give participants an opportunity to sharpen those skills which would redound to both themselves and the nation.
The National Awards of Excellence should not be taken lightly. This is serious business. Let me congratulate the Government of St. Lucia, and by extension, the Minister for Education Hon. Shawn Edwards for sustaining that programme.
I am even more pleased with the many areas in education that were highlighted in the National Awards of Excellence 2023.