Barbadian students are not entitled to free tertiary education – paid for by Government.
This was the declaration of an educator yesterday as a lively and somewhat heated discussion took over the Third Barbados International Conference on Higher Education. It centred on whether students were entitled to free tertiary education.
The unidentified educator, also a delegate at the conference, took issue with a presentation by President of the Guild of Students of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies, Damian Belgrave, which called on Government to reconcile the debt owed to the university so students and staff could feel secure in their positions this year.
Belgrave had argued that not paying the fees owed to the UWI could result in students, who could not otherwise afford to attend university, being deprived of the opportunity to pursue higher education and furthermore cause a ripple effect leading to reduction in courses and tutors, as had already begun to happen.
A conference delegate however rose to take issue with the belief that students were entitled to a tertiary education that should be paid for by Government.
She said: “We have a right to free education. We don’t have a right to tertiary level education and we don’t have a right for it to be free. We don’t.
“We have earned the right to what we have today because of the hard work of past educators and policy-makers in our system like Sir Lloyd Sandiford, Leonard Shorey, St. Hill and the like; but if young people are of the opinion that they have the right, then we are in trouble.
“You have the right to education; but you don’t have the right to tertiary level being paid for by the Government just because you want it. You have to earn the right and with that right comes responsibility,” she argued, as other educators in the conference began to applaud.
The teacher maintained that there were students who had been given the privilege of tertiary education, but were wasting it by switching faculties every year and not graduating out of the system.
“My biggest problem is when you stay there for five, six, seven, ten years jumping faculties. My biggest problem is when you come out, you expect and you believe that there is a job there waiting for you because you have a right.”
She further stated that students did not have a right to have Government pay for their education at the tertiary level because the fact was that Government could not afford to pay for everything.
Furthermore, Executive Director of the TVET Council, Henderson Eastmond, took issue with “the fact that” when investment was discussed relating to tertiary education, it was always assumed that such funds should be pumped into the UWI, leaving the Barbados Community College, the Polytechnic, and others on the sidelines.
“When we talk about tertiary level funding, people are looking at Cave Hill, but you’ve got to look at BCC and you’ve got to look at SJPP. My question is: Are we going to continue to send all the money up to Cave Hill or are we going to spend some more money at SJPP and the BVTB to get technical people to try to drive the economy? That is the discussion we need to have,” stressed Eastmond. (LB)