“The challenges we face as a country – unemployment, poverty, inequality and climate-related disasters – are problems which need to be solved holistically, through local and global partnerships,” says Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest. Minister Turnquest, who was the keynote speaker at the Sustainable Grand Bahama Conference, hosted by the University of The Bahamas, and held at the Grand Lucayan on Thursday morning, said that one of the ways sustainable development is being mainstreamed in the educational system is through the national development planning process. The Deputy Prime Minister noted that The Bahamas is strongest when all share a common vision and participate as individuals, communities, and institutions in advancing those shared goals. As such, he complimented the University of The Bahamas’ leadership position in the current discussion on Grand Bahama. “I hope the influence of educational institutions like UB, but not just at the tertiary level, will help increase the awareness and adoption of sustainable development principles at the individual, community, and institutional level and move us further as a country towards achieving our goals.
“The problems we face today are complex, and we demand more from our educational system than what we currently deliver. Our educational system still relies on the colonial mode of learning, which is only one of the ways it is currently outdated. We need a model that develops analytical skills and critical thinking in our young people. “Right now we are struggling to keep our educational system current and we are failing to adequately infuse it with new knowledge about ourselves and the world around us. Suffice it to say, most Bahamian children go through their entire formal educational career and never hear the words sustainable development.” Minister Turnquest questioned how it would be possible to achieve sustainable development goals without passing on the baton to future generations, teaching and empowering the stewards of tomorrow to live by and uphold sustainable development principles. He noted that for Grand Bahama, there are three educational priorities that must be developed in order to advance the island’s sustainable development goals.
The educational priorities for Grand Bahama include creating more opportunities in technological disciplines: in this regard, he noted that young Bahamians must be exposed to more opportunities and careers in the field of technology — one of the reasons why the government has focused on the Technology Hub for Grand Bahama. Secondly, Minister Turnquest said there is a need to harness the power of education, to widen the island’s participation into the traditional industries in Grand Bahama. “Thirdly, we need to invest more in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math),” said Minister Turnquest. “Given our economic base in Grand Bahama, which is primarily industrial, this is of paramount importance. In fact, Grand Bahama has an opportunity to develop a large pool of experts in very specialized fields, particularly in the maritime industry and the industrial sector.”
Minister Turnquest noted that despite its importance as a development concept and its galvanizing power globally, sustained development is still just a buzzword for many Bahamians. He said if one were to ask the average person what they felt sustained development meant, that person may have a vague idea about protecting the environment, or they may say it relates to jobs or how well the country is doing. He said while all of those common notions may have some merit, they only scratch the surface of what sustainable development fully encompasses. “Many people would not directly connect sustainable development with ensuring proper access to water and sanitation to all, ending hunger and achieving food security, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, promoting peace, social justice, inclusive societies, decent work, economic growth and poverty reduction, education that promotes lifelong learning and fostering innovation. “These are just a few of 17 sustainable development goals adopted by The Bahamas and 192 other countries in 1995, in the United Nation’s efforts to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.”
Minister Turnquest noted that in The Bahamas, and perhaps other places around the world, the truth is, sustainable development is a powerful idea whose power has unfortunately been lost and has become meaningless to so many people. He said it’s not because people don’t care or wouldn’t care, but because far too many people have no sense of ownership in the promotion of sustainable development. “Far too many people feel powerless to influence sustainable development communities and with so much political cynicism in the world, too many people feel that sustainable development is just a buzzword or sweet talk from politicians claiming to care about helping people and doing good. “Sustainable development, however, is fundamentally about our common future. It is a development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
“It is a principle of universal applicability.”