As the Government prepares to unveil its Vision 2020, Prime Minister Mia Mottley revealed a personal vision for a Barbados in the 2030s where all young people are full of confidence, bilingual, able to swim, unafraid to take business risks and are taking part in a sport or the arts.
And she suggested that if this vision was made possible there would be less feeling of alienation among the youth and less likely to get involved in antisocial behaviour.
Mottley also suggested that it would result in a lower chance of young people “risking life and limb to do ignorance either on the road or to themselves”, and instead, they would be more confident to “take on the world”.
“That is the kind of Barbados that we want,” said the Prime Minister . “One that is defined collectively by the kind of young Barbadians we want to build and nurture and foster such that they will speak with purpose and passion… from wherever they are in this nation.”
But her message fell on the ears of a modest gathering of mostly elderly people at the St Mary’s Church in The City on Wednesday, as she inaugurated a series of monthly Barbados 2019 and Beyond lectures.
Declaring that it was her mission to help “build the kind of society that has a large middle-class”, Mottley said it was for this reason that her administration was committed to the deconstruction and reconstruction of the educational system, which she wants to “unleash more creative and passionate citizens”.
“That is why we reintroduced free tertiary education last year even while being in the middle of an [International Monetary Fund] programme,” she said.
Mottley argued that the current education system was constructed to focus on a minority while “carrying along the rest to be orderly and capable of taking instructions”.
But the Prime Minister insisted that every child should be given the opportunity to be the best they could be, adding that “deconstructing our educational system has taken far longer than we had hoped for”.
She said: “Our educational system cannot be about training lawyers and doctors, priests and teachers, but it has to be about unleashing a purposeful, compassionate, passionate, disciplined and creative citizens.
“We have said that by 2030 every child under the age of 18 must be prepared for the lives that they can live in order to help unleash this country’s greatest potential.”
Mottley also hinted at an ambivalent position on corporal punishment in schools. She said: “I am not going to tell you that some level of a lash or two is bad because people respond in different ways to different things.
“What I think we have to be clear about is that corporal punishment in the form of abuse is completely unacceptable, but a lash never hurt anybody with a ruler or a belt.”
She also pointed to the need for parental education, saying that there were many “children raising children” and they needed guidance, something Mottley said she already mentioned to Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw.
Describing her vision for the country as a “mission-critical activity that has to be nationwide”, Mottley called on the church, community organizations and other civil society groups to come out of their comfort zones and work closely with Government to help young people who need help.
She said: “My government has set out some very simple objectives for our period in office in this country.
“We believe that we can build a better and stronger Barbados but we believe that stronger and better Barbados is the sum total of the actions of our people, and that it is our duty, if the people of this country allow us, over the course of the next decade to lay the foundation that will secure the next 50 years of our nation as an independent country and the way we do it is by unleashing the purpose and passion in our people.”