Amid recent turmoil in the tertiary education sector, Minister of Education Ronald Jones today gave his assurance that students pursuing further education will not be disadvantaged.
His guarantee came as the education sector opened Education Month with a service at Sanctuary Empowerment Centre, Country Road, this morning.
“As a caring Government, and I speak for Government, we take as our mandate to keep education at all levels on the cutting edge,” he declared as he addressed a congregation of students, teachers and other education officials.
“In this regard, tertiary education which is facing some challenges in these difficult times and as we read the papers and see the challenges being presented because tertiary education takes a substantial portion of those monies provided, it remains our pledge, it remains our commitment that we will do whatever is necessary and in the words of Malcolm X, by any means necessary once legal, to ensure that tertiary education remains accessible to everyone,” he stated.
Jones’ words could not have come at a better time, as there has been much discussion about the $150 million owed the University of the West Indies by Government, and moreover, as the island recognises a half century of free universal education in Barbados.
There has been much debate about the growth of the university over the past few years and what it has mean in increases from Government’s budget to meet the demands, with both statements in recent weeks from Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler and Principal of the UWI’s Cave Hill campus Sir Hilary Beckles about the situation.
Minister Jones, for the most part has not commented much on the issue, but today he noted that given that about 20 per cent of Government’s budget was dedicated to education, he would like to see students apply themselves to completing the level and moving on, a cry he has made several times before.
“Therefore recipients of it must not waste their time, not in primary, not in nursery, not in secondary, not in higher education, not in tertiary education. We have to go in, learn, get out and provide the talents to our country who would have provided for us.” He told the congregation this morning that because Government, and his Ministry was committed to education, they did not want to see it “slip backward”.
“We want to be part of the knowledge economy, part of the knowledge world. We have to look at what I call desired values and virtues that are necessary in our school….
“With all that we as a country have been able to achieve in the field of education over the past 50 years with regard to resources, financial and otherwise, we are yet mindful that the work is not complete and there is much more to be done. Every day a child is born, or children are in fact born, and therefore every day we have to continue to educate and to train. We can’t say that we will train these and forget those who are there now and who we know will come. We must continue to strive to make our education system complete. “Barbados is ahead of the pack in many, many instances. In the Education For All endeavour in the Millennium Development Goals, Barbados’ profile is way ahead of so many others but that should not make us complacent. That should force us to be better because as we grow complacent many others pass us and we therefore end up in struggle.”
The education minister also said: “Over the last 50 years we have all proven the validity of free education in our country. Barbados is a well-educated country… Education is under the greatest scrutiny of any system in our country because our people know what they put in and they expect to get out of it more than they put in by the changing of the lives of our children.” (LB)