The University of the West Indies, with its campuses across the region, is not as aggressive as it should be in meeting the needs of the region’s people, particularly at this juncture.
This assessment came from Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who told reporters this morning that he had great plans for the use of education and technology as a pathway to economic recovery and to provide new jobs for his people.
Asked in a wide-ranging interview this morning about the role the UWI would play in this, Mitchell, who was in Barbados for one day at the invitation of the Cave Hill campus stated frankly: “Without saying what I want to say to them [tonight], I would challenge them while I challenge myself and the governments, I honestly believe that UWI has not been aggressive enough in staying ahead of the game.
“I go back to a simple thing, and I have studied it, and I did a degree in Chemistry and Maths and the first course I did was in Statistics, that’s why my PhD is in Mathematical Statistics, I love the topic. But even then when computers were becoming the order of the day, we knew the theory, but not the practice.
“There were opportunities to train on the job in Barbados or other countries, because that is where you really learned. We pack ourselves with a bunch of knowledge, I knew every piece of theory you could talk, but I got into the States and realised I had the theory but I didn’t have a clue about the immense potential and opportunity to use that knowledge to better society and in fact create a better life for myself,” he explained.
This fact, he said, was what made him more excited, adding that he believed the university “needs to get its act together”.
He told the media from the private residence of a local family in Highgate Gardens, St. Michael, that he believed there must be more “evolutionary activities at the university”, noting that there were areas of innovation being created that should be driven by UWI.
“Take for example cricket. It took an American offshore medical school to start a cricket academy before we started it … That should never have happened with a bunch of people playing baseball, who know nothing about cricket and started a cricket academy in Grenada before UWI got on board, maybe because it felt embarrassed at what was happening.
“That is the kind of initiative and innovation I think is necessary so our institution must be supported, but like LIAT, I think it must become far more proactive and revolutionary in its thinking and I intend to make some points to them on that particular issue,” said the prime minister who is scheduled to lecture at the Cave Hill Campus tonight.
Mitchell, who led CARICOM’s development in the area of science and technology in his position as prime minister for more than 13 years, indicated that he truly believed education was the region’s key out of the economic situation.
Speaking on the launch of the Centre for Knowledge and Learning Network, he noted that the intention was to provide connectivity throughout all tertiary institutions across the region to maximise their educational and training development.
“Education in fact will be the major factor in how we are able to meet the challenges of economic development in the region as a whole,” he said, adding that he was in Barbados to outline for the university his version of how science and technology and information technology can play a role in that economic development. (LB)