Students stayed away from the protest of University of the West Indies fees through the City last week out of fear.
That was the view of President of the UWI’s Cave Hill Campus Guild of Students Damani Parris, who said in an interview there was “a significant element of fear” throughout the student body that accounted in large part for the small turn-out.
“The student body is convinced that the political directorate is going to victimise, pressure and immobilise any movement against this policy through the most tremendous of forces. I fear that my student body has a somewhat irrational fear of its government in the fact that it thinks its government has the resources and the capabilities of destroying each and every one of them individually over the fact that it will not have support in this matter. There is a significant element of this fear throughout the UWI at this time,” he said when asked about the turnout in an interview with Barbados TODAY, the second part of which is carried today.
Students took to the streets of Bridgetown on Friday to protest Government’s intention to introduce a fee structure requiring students to pay 20 per cent of their tuition from 2014. The protests saw fewer than 100 students and supporters from a roll of more than 6,000 students, raising placards in support of the Guild’s fight on their behalf. Students on call-in programmes and elsewhere though remarked that the demonstration was not well-publicised and many of them who would have joined did not know.
Parris though blamed the turnout on fear. He said there were many who thought their livelihoods and that of their parents or relatives would be threatened if they spoke out by raising their voices and placards in protest of the move by Government.
The president and main spokesperson for the Guild warned though that this was not the last occasion that the mass of students would rise up in protest and in fact they were already planning the next stage of their action.
He believed, “At the end of the day I think the university student body will move and that small group of students that we have seen can only grow larger because the university student body is not at all pleased with this situation.”
The situation, he noted, was reaching a “boiling point” and while it might not be reached tomorrow or the next day, “there will be a critical turning point in this country where we will see the student body of UWI rise up against this issue”.
Parris said the Guild was grateful for the support given to their cause by the Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who released a statement last weekend against the introduction of fees.
“What is required at this time is not an abandonment of the Social Contract. It can survive this recession as well. There are many choices available to us. We can creatively workshop the numbers and help the fiscal deficit. Let’s explore all options before we fall victim to the desire of a few who wish Barbados returned to the ‘Barbarity Times’, a term used by the enslaved to describe the slavery part of our history,” Sir Hilary had said in his statement.
Parris claimed both these statements, and those earlier of Vice-Chancellor Professor E. Nigel Harris, were welcomed and he believed there were also other faculty who shared like views. (LB)