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There are many of us who mourn the recent passing of Ms Vilma Cropper. She was an educator of immense vision and fortitude especially in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE).

From humble beginnings, she forged a meaningful career in education, both academically and professionally. Her interaction with students spans decades in the class rooms of primary and secondary schools, at the Valsayn Teachers’ College, and for most of her retirement period, at the UWI Extra Mural Studies Unit/School of Continuing Studies later, to become the Open Campus. In sum, thousands of learners have benefited from her tutelage and administrative skills.

Since the mid-1980s she recognised that children represent the future and must therefore be given the necessary skills to understand their world, to name their world, so as to deal effectively with everyday living. She believed that the Extra Mural Studies Unit/School of Continuing Studies, with principles based on serving the needs of the underserved and underprivileged learner, as a useful vehicle to chart a way forward.

She immersed herself in the activities of the institution and designed, with the help of a loyal curriculum team, ECCE courses that would ultimately transform pre-school and early primary education. She took the programmes to all the major centres of the SCS, both urban and rural, inner city or on the fringes.

In so doing she forged a path for many aspiring individuals in ECCE who hitherto were described as caregivers or non-professionals. She was steadfast in her attempts to get recognition for ECCE certificate courses and encouraged graduates to pursue degreed and post graduate courses. Her efforts have led, to some extent, to a committed body of graduates that are seeking to meet the needs of a highly expanded and recognised area of learning in T&T.

Her unwavering faith in God, propelled her to be a generous and loving soul.

At Christmas time we looked forward to baskets of well-known favourite goodies. She was always first on the dance floor at the institution’s Christmas dinner and ensured that her private party that followed days after was not abandoned. She loved life with a passion. She lit up the workplace with her charm, her smiling quips and her display of free flowing tropically styled outfits and her wide array of jewelry. Her home was a haven for the dispirited as well as the boisterous.

In our country we tend to memorialise only the famous or infamous ones, but I sincerely hope that when further work is done on the history of education in T&T, especially in the area of ECCE that Ms Vilma Cropper would be included.

She brought life and meaning to ECCE and never discounted any learner, who shared a passion for lifelong learning and was willing to believe that every child has the ability to learn and that we must teach based on this positive assumption.

Let your spirit soar Vils!

You have done great service to your country.

Retired Head, UWI Open Campus

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