A look at the Arima Constituency…’ GARCIA GETS THE JOB DONE’
By PETER GREEN
Anthony Garcia was a teacher at several schools in East Trinidad before becoming the Principal of Fatima College. Prior to that he had fought and won the seat of President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), a post which he held for an unprecedented 13 years.
After his retirement as Principal of Fatima College, Garcia, at age 66, decided to enter the political arena and in 2010, in the height of Kamlamania, he was the only PNM Councillor to be elected in the 7-member Arima Borough Corporation with the other six seats going to the People’s Partnership government. This was a feat which Garcia repeated in 2013 when the PNM regained the Arima Borough Corporation following which Garcia was made Deputy Mayor of Arima. In the General Elections of 2015 he fought the Arima constituency for the People’s National Movement (PNM). His opponent was Rodger Samuel of the PP government
Garcia impressed the voters and got 10,879 votes to Samuel’s 4,578 defeating him by more than two to one. At 66, Garcia became the MP for Arima. As was expected, he was appointed Minister of Education because of his background in education.
Nearly five years later and at age 71, what has Garcia achieved? Is he going back to fight the General Elections in 2020? His record in office to date can easily answer that question.
Garcia’s constituency stretches from Arima to Blanchisseuse. It is a constituency affected by poor infrastructure, unemployment and crime, in particular, gangland type murders.
But Garcia with all his experience has been able to get some of the problems fixed. At La Fillette, there is a refurbished Community Centre. A new bridge is soon to be commissioned linking La Fillette and Blanchisseuse.
The Blanchisseuse Community Centre has been refurbished. In Brasso Seco, work is continuing to restore the infrastructural damage as a result of the 2017 flooding. At the moment, there is a partnership with the residents, the Village Council and the farmers to regularize land tenure and obtain leases through the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources.
The old Textel building is being used for agro-processing and honey production. The plan is to create a specialized flora and fauna in conjunction with the National Forestation Programme to brand a Brasso Honey for a geographic indicator designation.
At the Aripo Community Centre, a stage and kitchen have been constructed and lighting has been completed. In Wallerfield or Jonestown as it is popularly known, the focus is on the renewal and establishment of leases for the farmers and residents.
At Maturita, extensive road works have been completed. Garcia said he is working with the residents and Village Council to fix the problems at Santa Rosa. There are some areas like Calvary and Malabar which are still experiencing water problems. The Village Council has purchased a truck and everything is being put in place for an equal distribution of water to the residents.
An upgrade is underway at Princes Royal Park and works have been completed on a new fish section in the Arima market. The long-awaited new Arima Hospital, which cost $1.6 billion dollars, is almost completed and will be opened soon.
Garcia said he has seen at least 4,000 persons at his constituency office. Housing, employment and education are among the issues being dealt with. The most challenging issue, according to Garcia, was the flooding in October 2018. He is working with all stakeholders and residents to rectify those problems as well as others. While Garcia is seeking improvements for the people of Arima, certain areas remain a hotbed. Areas like Temple Street and Pinto Road are controlled by criminal elements.
Two weeks ago, there was a triple murder in his constituency. Garcia responded: “It is indeed sad to learn that this state of barbarism continues in our town. I will be in contact with the Mayor and other members of the Borough Council. Together we will be visiting the home of the victims.”
Garcia said Arima was once a most peaceful town and people could have travelled the streets at any hour of the day or night, unmolested.
“Many of us had no fear of leaving our doors open, and there was never the fear of that type of violence. I am hoping that with the assistance of the police, together with all the citizens of Arima, it will bring an end to this scourge of crime.” This newspaper interacted with persons in the Arima market last Saturday and the general feeling is that Garcia serves his constituents well and even visits them in the market on Saturdays. One vender, Blue Food, is quoted as saying “Garcia or nothing.”
At the national level, Garcia was able to move the Ministry of Education from its cramped conditions in St Clair to a sprawling new building on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain. When asked about his achievements as Minister of Education, Garcia stated, “Within recent times a number of questions have been asked about the effectiveness of our schools. I can respond to you by indicating that we are among the top three performing education systems in Latin America and the Caribbean based on our participation in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) in 2016.
At CAPE there is a 95 % percent pass rates for all subjects written, we have moved from 43% pass rate for students getting 5 or more passes in CSEC in 2012 to 61% in 2019.
The Ministry of Education has developed a comprehensive School Based Management system based on the effective school research and our own local context which addresses several areas:
- Leadership and Management which included training of Principals, Vice Principals and the middle management teams in schools to facilitate the development of school improvement plans and actions plans.
- Curriculum and Instructional Delivery
The review and adaptation of the curriculum to incorporate 21st century skills to meet the identified learning needs of students, the use of relevant and appropriate teaching-learning methods and the introduction of clinical supervision of teachers in our schools.
- Teachers and Teacher Development and Management
We have expanded training in pedagogy has also been expanded to include the preliminary screening of students so that the needs of individual students can be identified. We are also in the process of rolling out our inclusive education project to support students with special learning needs.
- Examinations, Testing and Assessment
The Ministry’s emphasis is on assessment that focuses on student learning through the provision of feedback to students and teachers, the assessment of 21st century skills including critical thinking and problem and the use of results to identify schools with high percentages of students not meeting the required standards and provide school with additional curriculum support and resources.
- Physical Infrastructure, Environment and Resources
We continue to work towards ensuring students are provided with an environment that is safe, secure, aesthetically pleasing and conducive to learning.
- Key Stakeholder Engagement
(Education is everybody’s business) The engagement of parents and other stakeholders is another key component of School Based Management.
I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the digital transformation initiatives geared towards facilitating strategic decision making, improving efficiency, reducing cost and improving public sector service delivery.
• We have developed and implemented MOE Intranet to allow the secure sharing of information at the Ministry of Education.
• We have developed an HR Online recruitment portal for members of the public to access job vacancies and facilitate application.
• The IHRIS Update Project was initiated to ensure more effective management of the 13 000 teachers in the system.
• A School Learning Management System has been developed to allow all schools, teachers and students to be able to access the approved curriculum content and online courses. Schools can also offer online lessons and will be able to access digitally enhanced books. This will also facilitate both blended and face to training for school personnel.
• We recently launched an Education Management Information System which will facilitate the efficient management of the education sector and schools by automating all office operations at the school level.Garcia also spoke about other educational initiatives too numerous to mention and these include an Education Management Information system, the Bank/Embassy Job Letter Generation system and an Examinations Registration and Payment System.
Come General Elections in 2020, will Garcia be in or out? The general consensus seems to be in his favour and when one notes that in the Prime Minister’s three Cabinet reshuffles to date Garcia has remained untouched all signs indicate that he shall be the PNM candidate for the Arima constituency when the Election bell is rung.