If Governor General Dame Sandra Mason had her way all school leavers would be required to serve a period of national service.
Dame Sandra said she holds the view that if some of the societal ills that Barbados has been facing in recent years are to be corrected, a mandatory national service programme must be introduced.
“Now, the kind of national service that I am contemplating, I don’t have the authority to put it in force, is one where every single child in Barbados, not the ones who are underprivileged, every single child who goes through the school system in Barbados, must give some sort of national service.
“If you leave school at 14, if you leave school at 19, you must, before you enter the next phase of your life, do national service. I am also thinking that all those many persons who got Barbados scholarships, before they go off to wherever they are going, they should have a gap year, and should do it,” she said.
The Head of State expressed her views on Barbados’ need to introduce a national service programme, this morning, at the Warrant Officers’ Mess, St Ann’s Fort, The Garrison, where she visited centenarian Elder Edward Bishop.
She mentioned that while some Barbadian parents would send their children overseas to seek higher
education and a future, whenever they return to the country, they should still be made to do national service.
“I feel very serious about this because it is a question of giving back. We have to teach people that we have to be grateful. And not only be grateful that Dorian has passed us, but we have to be grateful every single day of our lives. We are fortunate that we have a stable government.
“We are fortunate that government gives us education, and we have to teach our children that you owe your country something. When we have national service, the question of nationalism and patriotism, would do us all very well. I know that I will get pilloried for this again, but as I said, I ain’t kay. Because I feel very strongly about this and I love Barbados,” she said.
Dame Sandra said though she does not believe that the national service would have to be run by the Barbados Defence Force (BDF), she holds the view that aspects of it would teach discipline to participants.
She noted that she spent many years after she became a qualified attorney-at-law, going to every “nook and cranny of Barbados” giving back in some form.
“I think that we have to teach our young people that they owe it to the country. It isn’t only about what you get, but it is what you ought to give. Many years ago, I sat on a committee that was set up by the late Tom Adams, in which we were looking at the possibility of national service. It didn’t get very far, but I would want to again say to the authorities that it is the sort of thing that will serve to bring our society back,” she said.
And though she spoke freely about a national service, Dame Sandra said she was almost scared to since she got into “trouble” the last time she addressed the gathering during a visit to a centenarian.
Earlier this morning, during a conversation with centenarian Eunice Golda Phillips, the Governor General agreed with the elderly woman that corporal punishment was not necessarily a form of abuse, but it worked well “in our days”.
“Subsequently, and I will tell you that no other person than my 32-year-old son, said to me when I was being pilloried in the press, he said ‘mum you know what is significant is that in your days people were smacked, and there weren’t very many violent people as I am hearing [now]. But nowadays you can’t smack anybody and everybody is violent.’ That is a 32-year-old speaking.
“And now, in the presence of all you regimental persons I will make another pronouncement because I am the Governor General and I don’t believe that I should be afraid of anybody because I am also Commander-in-Chief of the Barbados Defence Force. . .,” she said.