There was literally no seating room for the scores of St Lucians who showed up at the briefing session for the 2012 Taiwan and International Corporation and Development Fund (ICDF) Scholarship programs held at the St Lucia National ICT Center on Monday, February 13.
Even before 3pm prospective applicants milled about outside not wanting to miss any bit of information that could potentially make or break their chances at securing the scholarship opportunity that has become quite competitive over the years.
“It is really complimentary to see all of you here,” the master of ceremonies told the gathering. “Young people. . .others, a bit over 40, just one or two of you. It’s a very good mix of age and size, so again I want to compliment all of you for being here.”
Attendees included students from secondary and college level as well as a large number of people from the working world. Before the proceedings would get underway however, the MC posed a few questions to the audience to gather background information for her own purposes on the composition of the crowd that included people from all spheres of society.
When it was his turn, on behalf of the embassy of Taiwan Ambassador Tom Chou extended a warm welcome to all.
“I believe you’re aware that education is important for every nation, for individuals and I would like to take this opportunity to give you some very interesting examples of Taiwan.”
With that the ambassador proceeded to educate all about the size of Taiwan, which was roughly 6o times the size of St Lucia with a population of about 23 million.
“We are the 16th largest economic entity in the world and behind the economic success the most important thing is that we have a very good education system,” Chou pointed out. “We have about 163 Universities and colleges and about 25 percent of the national budget goes toward education—that accounts for about 6.5 GDP.”
Chou made mention of the efforts of the Taiwanese Embassy with the In Time Project, a computer education program for all primary schools in St Lucia and then moved onto the matter of the moment.
“Every year Taiwan offers about 600 scholarships to students from 73 countries and on average any country will get about eight to nine who will be awarded,” Chou stated. “I’m pleased to let you know that last year we somehow managed to send 18 students from St Lucia to Taiwan.
From 2007 until last year we’ve sent about 53 students to Taiwan and three have already completed their degree programs and returned to St Lucia. None of the St Lucians fail in their ability to complete their studies there so that is a positive sign.”
“Taiwan also benefits greatly from these international students,” Chou added. “They bring different cultures and we can also promote the mutual understanding between Taiwan and some other countries. I encourage the young and talented students to pursue advanced studies. After completion of studies they will become valuable assets for nation building of this island.”
The 2012 Taiwan and ICDF scholarship programs provide opportunities to young talented St Lucians to study in Taiwan for Bachelor, Master and PhD degrees in a variety of subject areas.
Education minister Robert Lewis was a feature speaker on the occasion and thanked the Republic of Taiwan for their “generous offer of scholarships to St Lucian students.”
“It is in that manner that we are able to prepare our work force for the next few decades,” Lewis asserted. “I want to speak to the students by saying that you are St Lucia’s biggest resource. The best way for us to prepare our country is by finding ways and means for people to find opportunities to go out, whether its in St Lucia, or out of St Lucia, to study because its very important.”
“I have been the beneficiary of three scholarships so I’m aware of the tremendous importance of having a scholarship,” the education minister disclosed. “Especially for students who’s parents would have never been able to pay for schooling. Education can be a very expensive product and is probably the biggest, single investment anybody will make in a lifetime. You can make an investment into a mortgage but education is a very big investment. We are very grateful to the donors who make these scholarships available to our people. Everyone deserves it in the sense that you’ve shown your interest. One thing about St Lucians, our people have shown a thirst for education. You can see by the sheer number of young people here, showing they approve of the gesture. Anytime you can educate your people you want to ensure it happens. I wish everyone the best.”
Lewis expressed hope that students would consider areas “most demanding” in St Lucia in regard to the government priority list.
“You don’t always have to go with that list in terms of what you study,” he added. “There are people with other interests but a country always looks at what its priorities are. I hope those who are selected will make the best of the scholarship.”
Following Dr Lewis’ presentation Michael Walker gave prospective students guidelines on the application process on what they should expect should they be considered for the scholarship award.