US Third Border Initiative to include Caribbean education
Stabroek News
January 29, 2002

A new American effort to assist with the institutional development of the Caribbean's educational system, among other areas, is likely to be on the agenda for discussions between CARICOM Foreign Ministers and US Secretary of State Colin Powell when they meet in Nassau, in the Bahamas on February 7.

A source in the US Embassy in Georgetown told Stabroek News that the assistance will form part of President George W. Bush's new Third Border Initiative the specifics of which are still being defined. Guyana is likely to be a part of the programme of assistance.

Bush's proposal is that the Third Border Initiative will focus new US funding and assistance on areas identified in the region as having the most urgent need.

In addition to the educational 'Centres For Excellence', the Bush administration will also commit US$20 million to HIV and AIDS funding for Fiscal Year 2002/03, which represents a tripling of US HIV and AIDS prevention and education funds in 2001.

There will be increased funding for disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts, aimed at shielding critical commercial and environmental infrastructure from natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

Additional resources will also be made available to critical areas of law enforcement co operation, such as anti money laundering, the professional development of policemen and prosecutors, and anti corruption training and assistance throughout the region.

However, the source said that the initiative was still in the formulation stages as it had not yet been legislated. The concept, the source said, two fold one which would help to strengthen regionalism that CARICOM was trying to accomplish and to meet US interests. How the US will work with countries that make up that third border would have to be worked out.

The establishment of `Centres of Excellence' will be a collaborative effort by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and key regional players in the teacher education field throughout the Caribbean.

The educational project aims to assist 13 English speaking Caribbean countries to improve the reading and comprehension skills of mainly children at the primary level, as well as implement a range of remedial schemes, aimed at helping teachers to effectively support students from economically vulnerable circumstances, and those who face serious learning challenges.

The educational initiative was a component of a larger undertaking by the US government to increase co operation with the region in several key areas, including programmes designed to enhance the current American Caribbean partnership, and collaboration on economic, health, education and law enforcement matters.

The US last year recruited some 658 teachers from the region and has begun a current recruitment drive here once again. Guyana, which was excluded from the recruitment drive last year, was included this year.

An article in the January 21 edition of the Jamaica Observer quoted Jamaica's Ambassador to the US Seymour Mullings as saying that educational assistance was just a component of a larger undertaking by the US government to increase co operation with the region in several key areas through Bush's Third Border Initiative.

Commenting on the main components of the teacher training programme, Mullings said the main emphasis would be on providing teachers with the tools to conduct effective diagnostic assessments that could help to identify reading problems early in the primary education process.

In addition to Jamaica, the USAID proposes to establish pilot projects in St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines. These projects in the initial stages, will revolve around six schools in each country. A USAID team was scheduled to arrive in Barbados this week to initiate discussions with key officials at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies as well as teacher training experts from Barbados and other countries in the Eastern Caribbean.

Mullings was among OAS' permanent representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean; President of the Inter American Development Bank Dr Enrique Iglesias; US National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, and senior members of the US State Department who were at a private forum the World Affairs Council hosted in Washington two weeks ago where President Bush spoke of the initiative. (Miranda La Rose)