A very pleasant good morning to you all…
It gives me great pleasure to address you today on this eight iteration of the AMCHAM T&T National Youth Productivity Forum, affectionately known as NYPF.
AMCHAM T&T is deeply committed to assisting in shaping a better Trinidad and Tobago- a Trinidad and Tobago with a productive work force, positive economic and social indicators and most importantly a T&T in which all citizens, especially our young people, realize that meaningful dialogue and inclusion are the only means that we will we make good choices. The adage that you are tomorrow leaders, ring hollow if you are not equipped to contribute to your schools, communities, and country. You need to understand the shifting world that you are about to inherit. You are not only the future of society, but you are, very much a big part of our PRESENT. And we try through the NYPF to prepare you for that role.
The NYPF engages our young people in the comprehension, articulation and discussion of national and global issues, as well as being part of the solutions by employing the tools of critical thinking, presentation skills (oral and written), innovation, research and entrepreneurship. Students are sensitized to the interconnectivity among the major stakeholders in society – business, labour, government and civil society- and the need for collective responsibility and collaborative solutions and implementation thereof- what we strive for in the ‘real world.’ These ladies and gentlemen are the elements of real education and as Nelson Mandela said "education is the most powerful weapon which you
can use to change the world.”
We are encouraged by the fact that the Ministry of Education, the Tobago House of Assembly, UTT, Office of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Equal Opportunities Commission, First Citizens Bank, Massy Technologies, parents, teachers and corporate sponsors are giving tangible support to this project. Needless to say, we have always been impressed and inspired by the keenness and commitment with which you have aligned yourselves to the initiative. This year we had an overwhelming number of schools register- this is the largest number of schools to register for the Fourm to date, and whilst we are excited to extend the Forum to accommodate you all, I caution you to understand the role and commitment that you have made. As our future leaders, we will hold you accountable to meet that deadlines of this initiative that you have committed. We also expect that you would contact us, in any urgent circumstances. Your participation not only affects your school, but also the other schools in the Rounds, and whist we have had that problem in the past, I am sure we would not have that problem with this group of students!
This Forum has been supported by the Honourable President Carmona, who has been the patron of the Forum for the last four years, and prior to President Carmona the patron of the initiative was the former U.S. Ambassador to T&T Mrs. Beatrice Welters. We hope that the incoming President, the first female President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago would be in a position to also support this initiative. It is important for us to pause here and acknowledge the impact of this country having its first female President -this would definitely assist in making gender equality in leadership normal. AMCHAM T&T strongly supports the nomination, as we believe it would open the eyes of our young people to the fact that leaders come from all backgrounds, colour, races and definitely gender.
The topic of the NYPF this year is “Health..your Wealth… Towards a more Productive Trinidad and Tobago”. According to a recently published Non Communicable Disease Report by the Ministry of Health, Trinidad and Tobago, research has shown that a quarter (25%) of school-aged children (5 – 18years) is overweight or obese. Childhood obesity remains a major concern due to its impact on the development of risk factors leading to chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and strokes later on in life. There has already been the emergence of CNCDs like diabetes in our children and youth populations. Trinidad and Tobago, at 60%, has the highest overall percentage of deaths due to CNCDs within the Caribbean region, heart disease is the Number 1 cause of death in Trinidad and Tobago accounting for 25% of all deaths, the diabetes prevalence rate among adults is approximately 12% - 13% and 50% of persons, 24 – 64 years, already has 3 or more risk factors for CNCDs. This high prevalence of CNCDs in our adult and children populations is related to unhealthy diets (high fat, salt & sugar), insufficient physical activity and low consumption of fruits and vegetables (less than 3 servings per day).
I am looking forward to hearing students passionately impress peers to the wisdom of limiting consumption of unhealthy fast foods and to embrace local nutritional foods and engaging in exercise. We are looking forward to innovative solutions to deal with the Health scourge we are facing.
We have incentivized the Forum, with some of the prizes (cash grants) being awarded to the teachers, who we know go beyond the call of duty to ensure that their students participate and get the additional assistance they need. And yes, we would also give our students some cash grants, and for the project component, the winning school will receive $TTD12,000 (in addition to the teacher’s grant) to successfully implement the project. You would get the details later today, but let me just say that we are using this Forum as a catalyst for creating critical thinkers and an improved learning experience.
We hope that the lessons you learn through this exercise will impact your families, schools, communities and country.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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