Gonsalves supports UWI, but . . .
St Vincent’s Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has assured young people of his country that they will continue to receive free university education, once qualified, but criticized the mode of study at universities.
The Vincentian leader gave the assurance last night while commenting on the direction of regional university education in his feature address at the launch of the UWI, Cave Hill Campus Faculty of Social Sciences 40th anniversary celebrations.
Explaining his commitment and connection to UWI in the Walcott Warner Theatre of the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination, Gonsalves said: “The university is in my blood because I was a student at Mona for five years, and then I was a lecturer, both at Mona and Cave Hill, for another five years.
“So for a period between 1966 and 1979 I was associated with the university for ten years, and I continue to be associated with the university.”
He went on to tell the large number of Vincentian students in the audience: “It’s part of the programme of my government that every single person who wants to go to university, wants a university education, once you have the matriculation qualifications, I will make sure that you go to university.
“And that is why here at Cave Hill, the largest group of students, other than Barbadians, are from St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
But Gonsalves went on to delve into the content of studies, especially at UWI, their relevance and the resulting abilities of graduates. He pounced on these tertiary education organizations for not producing enough regional leaders.
“The issue of leadership for development is evidently of great importance. Unfortunately, in none of our regional universities, including UWI, is there any structured programme
to develop leadership.”
Gonsalves, a four-term prime minister who studied at UWI, added: “It is mistakenly assumed very often that the acquisition of a university degree somehow offers leadership qualities upon the graduate.”
He reflected on his experiences as head of government with fresh graduates.
“A lot of bright young people come out [of university] to go into various ministries to work and the initiative is not there; the leadership is not there.”
Gonsalves advised: “We must start to educate our university students in the requisites of leadership in every arena to better prepare them to deliver optimal results.”
Switching from leadership to research, he said: “I am disappointed that on no campus of the UWI has there been any useful research done on the contemporary banana industry
or the marijuana enterprise.”
The prime minister said that regional universities too often prepared students to criticize existing conditions in any regional state, but give them little training in the drafting solutions for efficient implementation.
“The critic may raise telling queries, but more than that is required for our development. The perennial critique . . . becomes ineffective, and oft-times confuses serious policymaking and implementation with public entertainment.
“I want you, the students, to realize that what you are studying relates to real things, but [there are] limitations of some of the things we are studying,” he said.
Gonsalves expressed concern particularly in the study of economics in the region, and resulting economics graduates.
He said economic analysis of regional circumstances focused only on the technical aspects and cold figures.
“It admits no economic history, comparative or otherwise. It ignores the history of economic thought. You take up an economic text, an article by some economist, from UWI or somewhere, you would think that we just started.
“But some of the things you are talking about, great men and women have been dealing with them for centuries.
“If you don’t have a study of the history of economic thought, you can end up making a lot of mistakes which men and women have pointed out a long time ago,” Gonsalves warned.