Come again, Mr. President
by Damian J. Mascoll
I had no desire to make public my views on the ongoing discussion as it relates to the government’s policy to cease paying the tuition fee of Barbadian nationals attending the University of the West Indies as of 2014.
Having listened however, to the arguments made by the President of the Student Guild, Damani Parris, I believe it would be remiss of me not to offer the young man some advice as a former youth leader and present Barbadian living, labouring and learning to adjust, adapt and survive in a world gripped by a recession the likes of which none of has ever seen before.
I must state up front that I am one of the thousands of Barbadians who would have benefited from the heavily subsidised tertiary education and whose prospects have been forever changed because of it. I can remember the introduction of the amenity fees as a student at the Cave Hill Campus in the academic year 2004-2005. Memories of petitions and marches around the campus will forever stay with me.
What must be stated however, is that having graduated and seen the magnificent physical and technological expansion at the university, I far better understand now that the development of UWI into the world class institution which we often bellyached it was not would come at a cost.
Perhaps in our youthful exuberance, we failed to understand the impact of these developments on university experience of the students as well as the extent to which our fellow Barbadian was bearing the almost full cost of our academic pursuits through their taxes.
Please understand that I am into way discrediting the points articulated by Parris but I strongly believe that he ought to not make the mistake of many others before him and respond in what is perceived to be the “easy” option response but to critically analyse the decision in the context in which it was made.
It is within this context that I would like to make a few recommendations to the current guild president:
* Step down from the political soap box he has created for himself and remove the illusion of grandeur which all men sometimes harbour. Having done this he might then be in a better position to redirect his energy and the resources of the guild in the following areas.
* Expanding his knowledge base on the complexity of the subject at hand through extensive reading as well as discussion and consultation with as wide a cross sector of persons as possible.
• Engage the private sector financial institutions to provide access to student loans at competitive rates and to create educational saving products so that students who graduate from UWI will have options when they start to save for their children’s future educational needs.
• Lobby Government to conduct an audit of the human resource capital of the nation and provide sponsored spaces at the UWI campuses for persons seeking to study in areas which are seen as critical to the nations long term vision for development.
• Lobby government to support the UWI in developing and pursuing an aggressive marketing campaign to promote the university outside of the Caribbean region in light of the growing debate of the cost of university education in the
US and other international jurisdictions. Such a policy could improve the profitability of the UWI and help make it better able to absorb future cost associated with the education of our people.
• The formalisation of dialogue with the university to develop and execute programmes to increase the revenue generating capacity of the university and reduce its sole dependence on government subventions to the campus.
• Engage with private sector organisations to provide a greater number of scholarships in the areas where they see a need.
• Engage the university on how students can contribute to research that generates additional income through instruments such as grant funding as well as the development and patenting of useable, marketable technology, techniques and products.
My final recommendation to Parris would be to impress
upon his fellow guild councillors to better utilise the funding they receive from the student body to better assist the students who would be met with the hardship he identified once the policy is implemented in 2014.
The university is supposed to be the institution that educates our future thinkers and innovators. Unfortunately, what has been coming from the student representative is a “woe is me” response and not the critical thought and analytical response expected from persons who, like all of us, are expected to bear the mantle of offering plans and helping to develop strategies to best mitigate the situation.
This humble advice I offer to Parris as one for whom my country has sacrificed and is now, along with Parris and Barbadians everywhere, called upon to sacrifice for my country.
• Damian J. Mascoll is …….