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More at stake than tuition fees

I really do not know what all the fuss is about. Many people who are calling for the Budget policy on education to be reversed, have not spent a day in a classroom and have absolutely no idea about how underfunded the primary and secondary schools are in Barbados.

I say this as a parent and a citizen who has experienced it and not as a BLP or DLP supporter. I also say this as a student who is also facing the prospects of withdrawal due to the inability to finance myself, but there are larger issues at stake here.

Many primary schools across Barbados resort to fund-raising yearly through sponsored walks, fairs and so on, as well as the selling of snacks, many of which are unhealthy, in order to get basic commodities for the schools and for teachers to use, in order to educate the country’s children.

Many teachers have to buy basic tools and resources from their own pockets which should be provided by the Government but are not, in order to teach. Many schools have to rely on private concerns in order to have schools fenced, procure essential equipment like paper, have photocopiers and furniture, have compounds maintained and have remedial and delinquent children assessed, counselled and taught.

Ask any parent of a child at the primary level about the associated costs of schooling their child and compare that to what UWI students are being asked to pay and see that there is little difference. Take a look around yourselves and visit many of the schools in Barbados at the primary or secondary level and compare them to the UWI and then tell me who are the ones disadvantaged.

Does anybody remember how students screamed, kicked and fought when the amenities fees were first introduced? Look at what the amenities fees have done now at the Cave Hill campus. Look at the bus service and many more additions and improvements to the UWI and tell me if those fees were not justified. Does anyone remember the conflict between Professor Hilary Beckles and his fellow economist at the Campus over quality versus quantity in reference to student intake?

The issue is not about climbing any ladder and kicking it down, it is about dealing with certain changing realities which we choose to ignore.

There is not only a vast amount of ignorance prevailing but a substantial amount of selfishness as well. No one has a perpetual right to anything, not even life itself because that has to end some day. Education was never free. It was always borne by Government, the private sector, parents and the taxpayers.

Maybe now that students are being made to pay for their tuition, they can be in a better position to demand that lecturers give them adequate time for their money and proper supervision at the post-graduate level.

Maybe students’ time can now be spent demanding more academic freedom and an end to academic stultification; that the proper and adequate texts are available in the libraries for them to utilise and not have to rely on any one or two texts prepared by a lecturer in order to satisfy his or her selfish agenda.

Maybe students can be in a better position to demand that lecturers not only turn up to teach but get there on time as well. Before we set our mouths in motion about things, we need to do proper analysis of issues rather than spew verbiage that does nothing to help the situations with which we are faced.

— Ian A. Marshall

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