Various members of the community (religious figures, teachers, government officials) stood before the people in attendance (mostly students from the schools and their teachers) and extolled the virtues and importance of education. I was struck by the number of young children (about 3-9 years old) on the island. I'd never seen them all gathered in one spot before. The number of older students was considerably lower and the generation between 20 and 30 is almost non-existent. This, I believe, is less because of a growing population and more because the economy here is stagnant and development is stalled. The moment people are old enough to leave home, they do.
This was actually one of the themes of the day's event. The students were told of the importance of not only staying committed to their education, but also remaining committed to their community. They were told they would likely need to leave the island to achieve higher levels of education, but that they should remember South Caicos and return to improve their home. Judging by the missing generation, this doesn't currently seem to be happening.
The other thing that made the event stand apart from anything you might encounter in the United States was how it was conducted. It was more of a sermon where the kids were preached to than an assembly of motivational speakers. I can't imagine the uproar that would come if somebody tried to put this sort of thing on in the US public school system. But we're not in the United States, and this is a highly religious community. (Just last night Jessee and I were trying to count how many churches there are on this island. We were able to list 9 off the top of our heads and we're confident we didn't get them all. And that's for a population of about 1500.)
About 20 or 25 minutes into the service they invited the trio of our students (a guitarist, a signer, and a violinist) up to the stage to perform the song they had prepared - a rendition of "Hallelujah" originally written by Leonard Cohen. They got off to a rocky start. The violinist had trouble tuning her instrument and then within seconds of starting, the bridge of the violin snapped off completely under the tension of the strings, likely a result of the recent bout of humid weather we've had. The remaining two continued and were extremely well received by the crowd. Listen to a clip of it below:
I thought they did really well, even without the violin. I heard them practicing yesterday and the violin was my favorite part. What I enjoyed the very most, however, was the irony of the whole thing. Despite the title, Cohen's song is (in my interpretation) quite humanistic. It's about the pleasures of King David's adulterous affair with Bathsheba. It seemed, however, the congregation only heard the refrain - a repetition of "Hallelujah" - and they received the song as a call to the faithful.
According to what I read on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathsheba), the Bible says that after beginning their affair King David gave an order that led to the death of Bathsheba's husband in battle. King David then married the widowed Bathsheba and the couple had a son. That son died a few days after birth, which David interpreted as punishment from God for his sins. The Biblical story has obvious lessons about being faithful, but the song the students sang is more about human pleasures of his sinful activities.
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
Some of the other verses are even more explicit (and still others I can't really figure out), but look at the lyrics for yourself here: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/leonardcohen/hallelujah.html.
I'm not sure if the students planned it this way (my guess is that they didn't), but it seemed like very humanistic themes being delivered to an unaware religious audience. On the other hand, it might just be that my secular ears hear what they want to hear. Clearly the congregation heard something quite different. The video doesn't do a justice to their reaction, they truly exploded in cheers and the preacher shouted: "This don't feel like an educational service anymore! Bishop Cox, this sounds like a Revival!"