I believe in standing up for my rights and will fight for those rights as long as I am justified in my mind that I am 100 per cent right. I applaud the many students who are justified in their minds that it is their own responsibility to educate themselves and not the government. I was never one to believe in free education at the tertiary level, I believe that one has a greater appreciation for anything that one pays for rather than receiving it free.
I am in total agreement with the government that students should pay for their tertiary education. For the government to facilitate student fees it means that the government has to find it from somewhere and it is usually in taxes; that means taxes across the board. The only problem here, that it is the middle class that carries the burden of the taxes in this country and not the rich.
It has always been my position that free education was a good thing initially at that time when The Rt. Honourable Errol Barrow implemented free education. In that time of our history, it would show that there were two classes of people in Barbados, the rich and the poor and unfortunately the poor were from the working class. I could understand free education then to improve the working class standard of living, which in turn would have led to a productive nation. Once those initially earned that free higher education, they should have been in a position then to pay for their children’s higher education going forward in future generations.
My main concern regarding this subject of free education is that because it is free some university students do not take their education very seriously and many students can be seen many a day on the university campus wasting their time where some spend as many as five, six and seven years to get a first degree.
I am saying that if they had to pay for it like all other students throughout the world, they would appreciate it more and work harder to achieve their goals. The biggest problem is that each year hundreds of students graduate from the university and the jobs just aren’t there to absorb those graduates, especially since approximately 80 per cent of the jobs are white collar.
I personally feel that it is time that the government look at our school system and readdress the primary and secondary school ages. For years I have been advocating that primary school age should be seven to 13 years of age and high school 14-19 years with a separate technical high school from 13-19, which would facilitate those students who lean towards the technical areas and who are not academically inclined within the Bajan terminology.
It is very difficult to put a 16-year-old child out on the streets especially those that could not handle the so called academic courses. Let’s be realistic, a large percentage of our school children are leaving high school and are barely functional and to put them out on the streets where there is no hope could be catastrophic.
At least, if there was a technical high school that students who were identified early while in primary school as not traditionally academic as in our local parlance, would be accorded the opportunity to be taught one of the dying or traditional trades.