A major movement will be launched on Sunday to mobilise popular support for a national referendum to get Government to reverse its decision to make university students pay tuition fees.
The call for a national vote on the issue, being spearheaded by the Clement Payne Movement, stemmed from a budgetary proposal delivered on Tuesday by Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler, requiring, for the first time, that Barbadian students of the University of the West Indies pay full tuition fees.
President of the Clement Payne Movement, David Comissiong, said today that no government had the right to “dismantle” the Barbadian system of “free” university education at the UWI without first obtaining the approval of the people through a national vote.
“I now hereby call upon Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to commit his government, to subjecting their proposal to start requiring Barbadian students to pay the UWI’s tuition fee, to an ‘up’ or ‘down’ vote in a national referendum,” Comissiong said.
“I now also hereby urge all of my fellow Barbadian citizens to raise their voices and to demand such a referendum.”
The attorney-at-law and political activist added that his organisation would start mobilising popular support for such a referendum at a meeting, which is scheduled to be held at the Clement Payment Cultural Centre on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Comissiong is of the view that the Freundel Stuart-led Democratic Labour Party was “totally” out of place, when Sinckler announced that from next year the system of “free” university education would be no more and that Barbadian students would be required to pay the full cost of their UWI tuition fees themselves.
“They were totally out of place because the system of free university education at the UWI is one of the fundamental pillars of the very structure of the Barbadian nation, and no mandate has been given to Messers Stuart and Sinckler by the Barbadian people to make such a fundamental change to the very structure of our nation,” he added.
Comissiong also argued that even during the last general election, the ruling DLP did not indicate to the people that it was proposing such a substantial change. In fact, he suggested the opposite was true.
The Clement Payne Movement leader also reasoned that free education and the permanent pegging of the Barbados dollar to the US currency were two of the fundamental “Articles of Faith” of the Barbadian people and nation ever since Independence.
“No government is entitled to discard or change either one of these … without first getting the approval of the Barbadian people,” concluded Comissiong.
Prominent educator and Principal of the Graydon Sealy Secondary School, Matthew Farley, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, he supported the call for a national referendum on free university education.
Farley suggested free education from nursery to tertiary had been imbedded in the psyche of Barbadians and was one of those “sacred cows which would be difficult for anyone, or government, to slaughter”.
The educator of 40 years said Barbadians see free education from nursery to tertiary as an entitlement and he believed it would be “extremely” difficult for any government, no matter how they rationalise it, to change that without serious political and social fall-out.
“If I had to advise Government, I would tell them to find alternative ways of raising the revenue,” the principal added. (EJ)