Mental health support, internship and research opportunities, and publicity of student exchange programmes have been identified as areas that need to be improved at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus.
This wish list of sorts was presented by present and past students as they took part in the inaugural Youth Excellence Forum, held under the patronage of Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Charles Griffith.
The event at the 3Ws Oval was a collaboration between The Erline Bradshaw Foundation and the UWI which is celebrating 60 years.
Final-year law student Gabrielle Gay said she believed there was a need for greater mental health support and mentorship for students in the Faculty of Law. Describing the syllabus as intense and extremely packed, she said students required more assistance.
“I believe that there should be greater attention paid to the mental health of law students and more support with regards to mentorship,” proposed Gay, who suggested that tutors get some level of sensitisation and training in the area of mental health so they, too, can help provide some guidance to students who were finding it difficult to cope.
Gay also suggested that the faculty revise its syllabus to ensure that students are receiving training related to emerging areas.
“I truly and strongly believe we need to implement legal technology subjects into the law syllabus because right now we are producing batches of law students who have no theoretical speciality at all in any of the emerging legal technological issues that are searing the landscape right now,” she said, singling out artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.
Past student of the Faculty of Sports Tahir Bulbulia acknowledged that addressing mental health challenges would require resources.
However, he suggested that the UWI should consider providing “safe spaces where people can come and talk and express themselves”, as he pointed out that there are still negative views associated with talking with a counsellor or psychologist.
“People just need someone to talk to and help them through in their life, to help them navigate life,” said Bulbulia.
The youth leader also expressed a desire for sports to be used to address some of society’s ills.
“The opportunities are immeasurable – the opportunities for the economy, the opportunities for dealing with mental health, dealing with crime, the opportunities for dealing with the health crisis that we have,” he suggested.
Guild representative for the Faculty of Medical Sciences and president of the Medical Students’ Association Chad Forde highlighted a need for more internship opportunities and research programmes in his faculty.
He said this would help students develop critical thinking skills and produce more rounded health professionals.
“I think it is very important for us to have research and internship programmes for our students to get them involved as well as to get them giving back to their communities. We have started, but I think more work needs to be done. There is a programme for the nutrition students, partnering with the Ministry of Health and Wellness. I think we need to have internship programmes for our public health students,” Forde said.
He also called for a multipurpose lab simulator to be established in the medical faculty “to help those who learn by doing”.
Meanwhile, third-year law student and president of the law society Timothy Roper said he would like to see the university giving students the opportunity to visit other UWI campuses as he recalled that not long ago, medical, law and engineering students had to travel for studies to one of the other campuses.
“However, because of resources, we now have different faculties in more countries,” the Jamaican student said. “So, as a Jamaican, you don’t have to come to Barbados or Trinidad to study. As a matter of fact, I could have stayed home.”
Roper said some of his peers have contended that allowing students to travel to other UWI campuses encourages regional integration and more regional travel.
He also urged university management to do more to publicise its student exchange programmes.
In response, Deputy Principal of the Cave Hill campus Professor Winston Moore agreed that while the university provided a mentorship programme, it needed to be expanded.
“What we do need is more persons when they graduate to come and give back their time and participate in that mentorship programme,” he said.
In relation to mental health, Moore indicated that the university had counsellors but it lacked adequate resources to truly address concerns relating to mental health. He acknowledged that it was “a fundamental health challenge facing our students globally”.
During the forum, several of the youth leaders were presented with Outstanding Youth Leadership Awards.