One of the challenges that will be facing the parents of these primary and secondary school children is the high cost of school supplies and uniforms.
It was therefore the economic burden being faced by so many vulnerable families that helped to motivate the designer of the National Flag of St. Kitts & Nevis, Edris Lewis-Viechweg, to move into action to offer annual scholarships to students in need.
Even though she also acknowledges that decades ago, life was also challenging, it is her view that today, it is more difficult for parents to respond to the high costs associated with keeping their children in school.
The program began eight years ago with the first donations going to students at the Irishtown Primary and later it was expanded to include the Tucker Clarke Primary, Gingerland Secondary and Charlestown Secondary.
The students who qualify are those in need and making the difficult transition from primary to high school. To date she has given 59 scholarships.
Lewis-Viechweg added that she was also motivated by the desire to give back to the community and selected those schools because Irishtown was the institution where she began her teaching career at the age of 18 in the early 1970s, shortly after graduating from high school. Newtown was selected because this is located within the community where she was raised, while Charlestown and Gingerland were added based on obvious student needs.
The idea and interest to assist in this regard had been lingering for some time, admitted Lewis-Viechweg, but the implementation was delayed due to her own obligations and focus with her children who were being put through college, and the huge expense here helped to delay the start of the scholarship program back in her native land.
So back in 2005 she decided that if she did not make a start, it would be even more difficult later, thus the program was given birth.
“I hope the children would become interested in doing something that would benefit them, their community and the country on a whole. For example, today when I was at the school, I saw a person who came up to me and said, do you remember me and I said no. She said I was one of the recipients of your scholarships. She is now a teacher at the Newtown Primary School (Tucker Clarke).” This is the type of positive results Lewis-Viechweg is expecting from all her scholars.
“I encourage the children to listen to their teachers and to become more involved in the things that they do. And one of the things we are doing this year is having a science fair at the Tucker Clarke Primary.”
She has already presented the trophies, medals and plaques to the school officials. This, said Lewis-Viechweg, is an attempt to get children in the community more interested in Math and Science.
The educator has already spoken to the school leaders with a promise to do even more, such as hosting a Math contest to help keep the children meaningfully engaged and to keep the interest in those subjects. She said she has also committed to sponsoring these events as well.
Lewis-Viechweg herself was the recipient of a very generous scholarship that helped to provide her tertiary education at the College (now University) of the Virgin Islands. That scholarship was provided by the former Deputy Prime Minister and Parliamentary Representative for East Basseterre, Michael O Powell. Powell had committed to donate 50% of his Ministerial salary to assist the children of his constituency and Lewis-Viechweg became the first person to benefit in the early 1980s.
At present Lewis-viechweg is currently living overseas in Connecticut, USA and is still involved in the teaching profession.
In St. Kitts her teaching career included stints at the Basseterre Junior School, Junior High School, (now Washington Archibald High), Basseterre High School, and at the Village School, (now Dr. William Connor Primary).
The presentation to this year’s scholarship winners was made on Wednesday 7th August at the Tucker Clarke Primary School. The package includes books and uniforms and has also included shoes in the past.