Two significant events will occur this week that are worthy of special note. One of these is an annual event, while the other is arguably long overdue.
Hundreds of students from across the Caribbean, and some from beyond our islands, will graduate from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, on Saturday. That is an annual event, but this year the ceremony holds added significance, coming as Barbados celebrates its 50th year of Independence. Indeed, there is perhaps no greater means by which an individual or nation can gain national and individual independence than by an emphasis on higher education –– academic or technical.
Tomorrow the university will go a step further and those responsible for introducing the concept must be commended for their vision and initiative. For the first time in the history of the Cave Hill Campus certain top achievers will be recognized and celebrated in a special event entitled Reception In Honour Of Scholarly Excellence at the 3Ws Pavilion. There are currently about 130 individuals who have received First Class Honours at the Bachelor’s level, a distinction in the Master’s degree programme or high commendation in their doctorates.
Such excellent academic achievement is nothing to scoff at and in shining the spotlight on these high achievers, it not only inspires other regional students, but demonstrates in a tangible way that rewards accrue from dedication, commitment and unwavering focus. Young people must never feel embarrassed about working diligently and conscientiously toward academic achievement. They should never see themselves as the oddity in the crowd for being “bright”. Hence, those persons who have excelled at the three levels of academic attainment have reason to be acclaimed.
What also makes this week special for the campus is that the graduation ceremony returns home to Cave Hill. Though the unavailability of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex might have been an inconvenience, the planners at UWI have used the opportunity to return the graduation ceremony to Cave Hill for the first time in 21 years. The near 1,600 persons eligible to process should surely appreciate the significance of being at “home”.
In recent years the Cave Hill Campus has highlighted and celebrated the achievements of its outstanding sportsmen and sportswomen. The institution has performed outstandingly in cricket at the domestic level and has held its own at the regional level while providing players to both the junior and senior West Indies teams. The disciplines of football and netball have also seen the university performed creditably.
The emphasis on sports has been significant. Indeed, the campus has accorded an enduring distinction to former Barbados and West Indies cricketer, and UWI player-turned-coach Floyd Reifer, by naming the balcony of the 3Ws Pavilion in his honour.
In addition, the regional institution has introduced a UWI Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Award –– won in April this year by Jamaicans Chadwick Walton and Katherine Witter.
That the UWI’s administration has now decided in similar vein to honour those who have excelled across three levels of academic attainment is in keeping with such recognition. Like the sports personages, the academics’ years of sacrifice and subsequent achievement merit the spotlight and it sends the right signal to those who will follow this week’s events. It might have been long in coming but better late than never.
In addition to those approximately 130 individuals who will receive special recognition, four outstanding Caribbean citizens will be celebrated at Saturday’s graduation. At the morning ceremony the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science will be conferred on Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO and that of Doctor of Laws will be conferred on Senator Dr Sir Trevor Carmichael, attorney-at-law. At the evening ceremony, the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science will be conferred on Senator Carol Lady Haynes, medical doctor; and that of Doctor of Letters will be conferred on Mr Richard “Tony” Best, journalist.
Best is the second journalist to be so celebrated in recent times after a similar award was conferred on the Nation Newspapers’ Editor Emeritus Harold Hoyte.
At a time when many of our young people have lost their way; view the illegal drug trade as a viable career option; find reason to smile and give the thumbs up while being led in handcuffs to court; we need positive signals to demonstrate that there are alternatives to deviancy.
Not every young man or young woman will possess the ability or acumen to pursue a university education, but the message which must go forward is that the pursuit of excellence is the pursuit of excellence. That quest is not confined to academia but can be directed towards every sphere of legitimate, wholesome and productive activity.
As we continue to celebrate our 50th year of Independence, let us also praise the positive signals coming from the folk at Cave Hill.