Fee fury: Town Hall meeting held at UWI to discuss new tuition

President of the Guild of Students Damani Parris.
President of the Guild of Students Damani Parris.

Emotions ran high at the town hall meeting last night at the Cave Hill campus to discuss the implementation of the policy which would see Barbadian students paying tuition fees.

Parents, former students, uncles and people who wanted to add their voice to the debate which has been raging since it was announced in the 2013 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler last Wednesday, attended the town hall meeting in the Roy Marshall Teaching Complex.

The policy will see all Barbadian student attending the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill, Mona and St. Augustine campuses from 2014 paying tuition fees.

Some spoke passionately, others voices choked with emotion told stories of dashed hopes and dreams if the policy is implemented.

“I understand what education does for me. It set me free, It gave me the power to air my views and not be afraid…,” said one woman.

Pledging to walk up and down the campus, she said it could not be as normal.

“I am no longer an under grad but I can guarantee you every evening when I done work, I am going to roam up and down in Roy Marshall and it cannot be as normal with these students in here. If it means I have to get a loud speaker I gine do it, I will do it”,” she stated to applause.

For an uncle, he was adamant his nephew’s dream of being a doctor will not be cut off.

“He should have the right to be a doctor like anybody else. The same way the Honourable Prime Minister could have three degrees … my nephew should have the right to come to this university or any other university and get his degree. I will pay for it by taxes but he should have the right.

“Who made those special that they could get free university education and my nephew got to pay? It is fundamental wrong. It is wrong and we as a passive country must not sit idly by and let me people [punch] out our eyes. It is wrong! It is wrong and if we as a country would sit idly by and do nothing we will reverse all the great things we’ve accomplished over the year.

“We always pride ourself about free education, but people pay for it and it is a fundamental thing. I can’t understand how people in Parliament all of them went and get free university education and now they want to tell my children and my nephew that they have to pay. It is wrong! ” he said passionately.

One father said he worked at the Sanitation Service Authority and he wanted his daughter to have a good education.

“I have a daughter that is 16 and by the next three years, she said she would like to come to UWI to learn law, I work at Sanitation and I get $108 per day, that might not seem like much but I make it do. Over the situation arising, I can expect my daughter by the time she reach 20 to be a needle worker. That is how it lay out to me.

“I would like that whoever party, whoever dealing with it, should like at that where poor people are concerned… Anything I can do to assist I would,” he said.

A medical student charged that Government was reneging on their promise to pay for them and pointed out that if she and her classmates have to pay tuition cost, the numbers in that faculty will dwindle. (DS)

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