Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate for St James South Sandra Husbands appears to be out of sync with her political leader on the issue of free tertiary education for Barbadians.
While BLP leader Mia Mottley is promising to reinstate free tuition for Barbadians attending the University of the West Indies (UWI) if her party wins the next general election, Husbands has suggested that any financial support must come with strict conditions.
Speaking sometimes as though she would not be part of the decision-making, the parliamentary hopeful explained that while she was not sure how Mottley intends to reverse the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) 2013 decision, if it were up to her only the areas of study that were critical to national development would be funded by taxpayers.
“We must agree that if 20,000 [students] turn up, we [the country] don’t have the money to do that many. It is my opinion of how I think it can be approached, but Miss Mottley will share exactly how they would go about it. But in my view, for example, you have some areas of study that may not be part of your national development plan. If you find yourself with limited resources you may have to make choices, but how they come up with those choices . . . Miss Mottley would outline how they deal with them when she outlines the plan,” Husbands told Barbados TODAY while insisting that by no means was she speaking for the party.
Her position will be music to the ears of Minister of Education Ronald Jones, who has charged that Mottley was making unrealistic promises in a bid to win the youth vote.
Jones, who was addressing the DLP’s Christ Church branches at Deighton Griffith Secondary School last Sunday, said Mottley’s pledge did not mesh with the country’s economic reality.
It was clear, however, that Husbands was not expressing doubt about the policy, but appeared to suggest instead that the devil would be in the details.
“But all of that is conditioned by the funds and resources which we have,” Husbands stated this morning at her campaign office at Thorpes, St James, during the question and answer session of a press briefing on an upcoming voter education seminar.
The BLP candidate said her suggestion of a streamlined approach to education was not new, explaining that UWI had already been weeding out irrelevant programmes.
“We cannot just let there be inefficiency in the way in which the university operates in relation to the Barbadian student. Miss Mottley will share whatever changes the policy will engage. But one of the things that I am sure will be there is that you have to focus on the areas that are critical to national development.
“That process has already started with the university, who have already engaged the business community because they were finding that students were getting degrees that they could not get work with. They found that there was a mismatch between what the businesses wanted and what UWI was sending out,” she said.
From the BLP platform last Saturday during the party’s 79th annual conference at Queen’s Park, The City, Mottley gave her word that should her party win the election, it would present an economic stabilization and growth plan “within six weeks of being elected as the Parliament of this country.
“Whosoever shall have the pleasure of being the Minister of Education shall be rising to give their first ministerial statement and . . . they shall commit the Government of Barbados to paying fees for students of Barbados at the University of the West Indies from academic year 2018 to 2019,” Mottley declared.