Opening the doors of the Confucius Institute in Cave Hill not only put a physical form to the academic and cultural exchanges going on between people of Barbados and China for the past two years, but also signified realization of one of the plans of university principal Eudine Barriteau.
The building commissioned last Thursday on a mound at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies represents a joint venture between the Government of Barbados and the Chinese Government, aimed at bringing the languages and culture of China to the people of these shores in an academic setting. It’s expected to result in better understanding and closer cooperation between the two nations.
Though it had no structural presence before last week, the Institute had been opened since April 2015, temporarily using other university classrooms.
“Very soon, we will be deepening our relationship between The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus and China when we embark on a revolutionary agri-business project on 28 acres of land at Dukes, St Thomas. By way of its scale and scope of activities, this UWI-China initiative will be the single most important thrust in agribusiness development and related entrepreneurship in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean,” Barriteau said at the commissioning.
For this reason, the principal noted that what she termed “the formal homecoming of this Institute” occurs at a significant time in the Campus’ history.
“The Cave Hill Campus is in transition and refashioning its educational model. As a university, we are fulfilling our commitment to the harmonious flourishing of China-Caribbean relations as we build bridges of cultural understanding, promote scholarly reciprocity and strengthen mutual trust,” she said.
The agri-business project that sprung from that flourishing Cave Hill-China relationship brings to life a projection Barriteau made in December 2015 during her address on becoming the Campus’ first female principal.
“In the new year, the Campus will submit plans for the redevelopment of the Dukes lands generously bequeathed to the Campus by the Edgehills….Under the unwavering leadership of Professor Leonard O’Garro, Director of the Centre for Food Security, the Campus will seek approval for the creation of a science park for agricultural business and entrepreneurship. We have already secured some high-value agri-business ventures,” she said at that time.
As she thanked the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for ensuring that this venture got into a Chinese funding package, Professor Barriteau said the project – which is awaiting final approval from the Town and Country Development Planning Office – “has the potential to not only transform local and regional agriculture, but will make a significant contribution to Barbados in agro-business development”.
“The Dukes project will provide a wide range of accredited training to meet the future needs of Barbados and OECS in the field of agribusiness, entrepreneurial development.
“These include: producing exquisite leather goods from the Barbados Black Belly Sheep for the Barbadian company, Island Leathers Inc.; training of Caribbean nationals in the manufacturing of chocolates and associated confections, through support from the Caribbean Development Bank and the private sector; growth of a vertical integration programme to produce final products of the famed West Indies Sea Island Cotton in partnership with the local company Exclusive Cottons of the Caribbean Inc.; and the implementation of commercial farms for agri-businesses under the umbrellas of the Barbados Small Business Association and the Co-operatives Department of the Barbados Government,” the Cave Hill principal said.
Barriteau stressed that this agri-business venture would not take away from the main focus of languages and cultural exchanges of the Confucius Institute since, as she noted, “there is growing global demand for a greater understanding of Chinese language and culture”.
“This is especially evident right here in Barbados and the Caribbean. The Confucius Institute offers intercultural communication and builds closer cultural ties between Beijing and Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean.”
Supporting her point on the demand for more knowledge of China’s communication and norms, Chinese Ambassador to Barbados, Wang Ke called for further strengthening of the teaching base across the region.
“In order to meet increasing requirements of learning Chinese language and culture, more Confucius Institutes and more Confucius classes should be introduced to this region to play a role of enhancing the understanding and friendship between China and Caribbean countries,” she said.
She observed that in recognition of this need, regional educators had formalized an exam with academic credits for schools.
“It is encouraging that the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) decided to introduce Chinese as a CSEC [Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate] optional subject for regional secondary schools.”
However, the diplomat pleaded for more aid to be given to the Caribbean examiners
“Assistance should be provided to CXC in working out the syllabus and making it link-up with the Confucius Institute teaching programme so that the local students could have a better study effect,” the ambassador said.