Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persaud-Bissessar has suggested that the Caribbean’s buying in bulk could result in savings to individual countries.
Delivering the Seventh Distinguished Alumni Lecture at the Walcott Warner Theatre of the University of the West Indies last night, she said too she hoped to see a laptop in the hands of every child, at least in the first instance, at the primary school level.
Addressing an audience at the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination, which houses the theatre, the leader of the twin-island republic said that one of the things she had endeavoured to do was ensure that children received laptops going into school.
Asked later by a Belizean student if this was something that could be insisted on at the CARICOM level, Persaud-Bissessar said: “I do understand it is also an economic issue in terms of the finances. Right now, our nation states are really in economic difficulty and therefore our priorities may be slightly different, but there may be ways that the OECS can be part of the solution for example to assist us. I know St Kitts has a programme as well with children.
“As for Belize, I am sure there might be something that could be discussed about partnering . . . . As nation states we have one vote at the UN; yes, we are one nation, one vote; but if we band together as 14 CARICOM nations we are stronger. We have 14 votes; but also if we have to buy products and we do it in bulk, instead of buying for my 20,000 students at home, we provide for 40,000 students or 60,000 students in the region, we could be buying at a much, much discounted price,” she said.
She added that while such representation could be made at the CARICOM level, each nation state still had to decide on its own priorities, given the economics of the times.
Persaud-Bissessar said one of her first priorities on becoming prime minister was to look after the issue of education. As such, she said, she recognized the need for knowledge, along with its ethical and ardent use.
She stated that as minister of education in a previous administration, she had the privilege of introducing free universal secondary education.
“In this incarnation where I have been blessed with the opportunity to lead, our hope is to ensure that we move tertiary education to 16 per cent, but also our vision is to have free universal preschool education and every child between three and five will get free education . . . . It is challenging given the economics of the time, the finances of the time, but we are working on it. Give me the child from one to seven, and I’ll show you the man. So those early years are very vital and we appreciate . . . . and we are pushing and working towards that.”
She reiterated the use of education as a means out of improving ones circumstances, stating: “[W]hat we want to do is to encourage so many others that education is the only key out of poverty. Education is the passport to a better quality of life.”
Looking at herself and some of the others who are now ministers and dignitaries in the room and who also went to UWI, she said they were prime examples that people could move from humble circumstances and move to better through education. (LB)