The principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies today voiced concern about the future of that institution, even as he pleaded with the Freundel Stuart Administration not to cut off free educational access to Barbadians. Addressing the opening of a two-day National Seminar on Food and Nutrition Security in Barbados at Cave Hill, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles again returned to the still unresolved debt which Government owes the university for Barbadian students studying here and at other regional campuses.
“And if we are going to clip the wings of the goose that laid the golden egg, what will be the consequences? Eighty per cent of our students are from the working class. Are we going to unleash class warfare upon what is primarily a working class institution?
“Opportunities for working class families to increase upon themselves against a history of poverty and knowing that the only way out of poverty is through education in this society for the majority of families — are you going to close that door? Sir Hilary told the audience he had examined the number of years each member of Cabinet of Barbados had spent at UWI.
“Some of them have two degrees at UWI, some have one, some have three. I have calculated and quantified the amount of years that every member of the Cabinet in this country has spent at Cave Hill and at UWI; and I can tell you, that what we have is 65 years of free tertiary education,” he revealed.
“The Cabinet members have had 65 years of free publicly-funded tertiary education … and I do not believe for one moment that a collection of men and women who have had 65 years between them of free public-funded tertiary education at UWI, will in any way, do anything to prevent others from having the same,” Sir Hilary argued.
He said he did not believe “such a conscientious leader” as Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who benefited from doing two degrees at the UWI, would preside over any strategy to close the door on citizens who wished to emulate him.
Sir Hilary’s message was for the Government to adequately fund tertiary education.
“We send the bill to Jamaica, we send the bill to Barbados, we send the bill to Trinidad; we send the bill to all the countries, this is your bill. If you do not pay your bill, then the question is, who will pay?” the UWI principal asked. “If one Government does not pay the bill, the invoice, who then is paying for education? In other words, the debt which the Barbados Government owes the university, is the equivalent of the last 5,000 students.”
Sir Hilary pointed out therefore, that the university had not been paid for the last 5,000 students it graduated from Barbados.
“And if the Government has not paid for the last 5,000 students, it graduated, who is paying for them and who has paid for them? It’s a regional university. These are the kinds of conversations that we have to have,” the campus head said. (EJ)