The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has sounded a warning that the immediate future of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, is in jeopardy, due to the sharp decline in student registration. And the party says it’s now a matter of when, not if, tutors and administrative staff will be sent home.
BLP spokesperson on education Edmund Hinkson accused the Government of destroying the aspirations of young Barbadians through its decision to cut funding for nationals attending the university, a policy he describes are retrogressive.
“All of us BLP Members of Parliament and constituency caretakers know of many constituents who have decided to drop out of university after this academic year ends next month, due to their inability and that of their families to raise the necessary finances to continue their respective education. We all know of constituents who, having previously considered attending university, have now not even bothered to apply for admission before the stated closing date, due to the same reason,” Hinkson said at a Press conference held on the weekend.
He said further: “The Government needs to, with urgency and without any further delay, announce to the public the details of a loan scheme for university students with low attractive interest rates, with other favourable terms and conditions and without burdensome penalties for contractual breaches.
“These loans must be equally accessible to all Barbadians, regardless of class, colour, creed or political persuasion.”
The Opposition party is urging Government to hold off on its plan, and to hold urgent town hall meetings in light of the effect the move will have on students, families and the country.
“Put this issue on hold about tuition costs. Let the Government pay for now and let the public come into play,” Hinkson told the media conference held at the office of the Leader of the Opposition. He criticized the Freundel Stuart administration for also failing to consider a BLP proposal to waive tuition fees for eligible persons with disabilities.
“This is wrong. Why can’t you waive those fees. We have signed a convention at the United Nations [dealing with] persons with disabilities,” he said, noting that such individuals were among the most vulnerable in society.
“Consideration has to be given to the 5,000 odd young people who will be leaving secondary school in the next two months, a significant [number] of them who are contemplating a dim future in all of these circumstance.
“We have constantly warned the Government that its decision will result in thousands of our citizens either withdrawing from the University of the West Indies or opting not to enter the institution, simply because they cannot possibly afford to pay tuition fees ranging from between $6,000 and $17,000 each year for full-time students in order to obtain a tertiary degree.”
Hinkson added that it was now questionable whether any Barbadian from the working class would be able to pursue medical studies at the University of the West Indies without the benefit of a scholarship since this degree would cost $180,000 for the first three years of the course.
Last week, the Barbados chapter of the UWI Alumni Association asked Government to rethink its decision to have students already enrolled at the Cave Hill Campus paying their own tuition. Up to early this month, student enrollment was down at least 39 per cent with the Faculty of Social Sciences being the hardest hit at 46 per cent.