In November UK NARIC were invited to deliver two workshops on Evaluating International Qualifications and Educational Fraud for the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT), the body responsible for quality assuring post-secondary and tertiary education on these Caribbean islands.
On the first day of our visit, we were invited to the ACTT’s offices to meet their team. This experience enabled us to find out how the organisation deals with their day-to-day work, how the team members gather information and what criteria they take into consideration while recognising overseas qualifications. Not only was this visit informative and interesting, but the warm and friendly welcome we received made it very enjoyable.
The second and third days of our visit were very hectic as we delivered whole day sessions to large groups of delegates. The venues chosen by the ACTT were inspiring, with one day being held in the new National Academy for Performing Arts and the other at the top of a local hotel with a fantastic view over the coastline and city. The attention and interest shown by the delegates and the positive comments that we received made all of our preparation and effort worthwhile and gave us a feeling of fulfilment and satisfaction.
Trinidad and Tobago is a colourful nation due in part to its climate and also the cultural mix of people who have arrived on the islands throughout their history. Trinidad became a Spanish possession after it was reached by explorer Christopher Columbus in 1498. In 1775 it was captured by the British who negotiated an amicable treaty of rule with the Spanish; Trinidad became a British colony in 1802. In the following years, slaves from Africa were brought to the island to work on sugar plantations and after slavery was abolished by Britain, landowners imported thousands of indentured labourers from India, China and the Middle East. In 1889, Tobago was joined with Trinidad as an administrative ward. The islands achieved independence from Britain in 1962 (our visit happened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of independence celebrations) and became the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1976.
Although the national language is English, we sometimes struggled to understand the Caribbean accent and dialect; once it had been explained, a particularly useful expression was ‘let’s lime’ which means ‘let’s hang out’!
We made use of our free time and did some ‘liming’ in the Royal Botanic Gardens which has hundreds of trees from all across the globe. The trees benefit from Trinidad’s two-season climate; it is warm all year round with a dry season lasting from December to June and a wet season from July to November. As we visited the country in late November, which was the end of the wet season, we were lucky to enjoy lots of sunshine on every day of our stay. The dry weather enabled us to have a walk around Queen’s Park Savannah; originally a sugar plantation it is now a large open park and, as traffic only flows around it in one direction, the world’s largest roundabout.
Trinidad is famed for its petroleum, natural gas production and its large quantity of natural asphalt while its sister island, Tobago, is famed for its beaches and diving opportunities. Nonetheless, Trinidad also has its beauty spots and on our final day we took a trip to Maracas Beach on the northern shore of the island. Its natural beauty and proximity to the island’s capital, Port of Spain, makes it a very popular weekend destination for locals. The warm, clear water, golden sand and relaxed atmosphere helped us to wind down after completing our busy schedule.
Our visit to Maracas wouldn’t have been complete without a truly Trinidadian lunch – Shark and Bake. This is a sandwich made of lightly battered and seasoned young-shark, wrapped in a light fried-bread or bake and filled with salad and tasty sauces.
Our thanks must go to the ACTT for inviting us to run their workshops and for showing us the island’s sights.
Monika Krzebietke and Elizabeth Evans, January 2013