Government may have to do some damage control to clear Barbados’ name in light of the controversy surrounding the Nigeria Delta Youth Empowerment Programme.
Senator Sir Roy Trotman made the suggestion today as he urged Government to look to see how it could capitalize on heightened interest in education by foreign students and, at the same time, be wary of those with less than honourable intentions.
“We have to be careful of any vultures that there might be in the surrounding landscapes,” he warned.
“There will be people who will try to take shortcuts and try to zero in on the wallets and would not have too much of a care regarding the level of bad effect that all of this might have on our publics. I therefore would like to urge that the rumours which there were surrounding the Nigerian experience, that those records, as much as can be done, are put clear and that we ensure that those persons when they come to Barbados are able to see Barbados as an example of business always being done in a transparent manner.”
Close to 90 Nigerian students arrived in Barbados last December under the the programme to pursue a nine-month study course in tourism and agriculture studies at the Barbados Community College.
The programme hit a snag almost immediately when a group of the students went public with complaints about poor accommodation, bad food and a lack of water at the Casa Grande Hotel in St Philip where they were staying. Another group of the students subsequently went to the media saying that the complaints were fabricated. Thirteen of the students were ordered back home but only five have so far left. There were also allegations that the funds for the programme were mismanaged.
Despite those troubles, Sir Roy contended that Barbados could capitalize on the interest of foreign students in this country’s education system.
Although not going into details, he said he had been made aware a few weeks ago about interest in using Barbados as a centre for students from Nigeria to be educated.
“It is my view that that is but one of those areas where work of that sort can be done . . . Other countries are willing to capitalize on our educational infrastructure. The question really for us is whether we are prepared to do so for ourselves,” Sir Roy said.
The veteran trade union leader said the BWU had also been approached by persons interested in using its facilities for training hundreds of people in the areas of aeronautics and avionics.
Fellow Senator Sir Trevor Carmichael, in his contribution to the debate, also pointed to Barbados’ potential in this area.
He suggested that it was possible to revive an educational industry via private-public sector partnerships.
The Independent Senator identified the Edworks programme, which originated in Australia and components of which have been brought here, as one example of such collaboration. The tutoring programme has been piloted at the Bay Primary School.
“I suggest that Edworks will continue and it provides a great opportunity for Government and a private institution such as Edworks to collaborate further for the national benefit,” he said.
“This opens potentially a wide market for us to restart the bringing of students here for tuition, because let us not forget that in the 50s and 60s and less so in the 70s the large number of Venezuelans and some from other parts of South America came here as boarding students not just to learn English but to be fully tutored in our educational methods . . .
“Edworks could prove as a catalyst for a return of that type of educational industry where we get involved in the importation of students for educational purposes,” Sir Trevor added, as he also indicated that it presented a good opportunity for young entrepreneurs to start “an import industry of students”.
Meantime, Sir Roy called for cross-party committees to be established to examine the funding of education and welfare benefits in Barbados.