Demand change from govts, youth told
Government policies that ignore the needs of the youth, particularly when it comes to education, are to blame for the sluggish economic conditions and social ills now facing Barbados and the rest of the region.
And as he delivered that damning indictment, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor Sir Hilary Beckles called on the region’s young people to follow the lead of youth in other parts of the world and demand a change.
Addressing the official launch of the UWI Youth Development Programme Friday, the top university official warned that any model of economic growth and development that did not recognize the importance of human resource and human capital would face serious challenges.
Sir Hilary, who has been critical of the Freundel Stuart administration’s policy on tertiary education, said it was disturbing that the number of young people enrolled in institutions of higher learning in the region was low compared to other nations.
In fact, he said, the English-speaking Caribbean had the lowest ranking for enrolment in higher education in the Western Hemisphere. And he argued that the countries that prosper were those that “place the interest of young people at the centre of all policy”.
“Our growth is the most sluggish of the entire hemisphere . . . and it is linked to inadequate engagement in higher education, and that is government policies. Government policies in this region are adding to that problem of making higher education increasingly out of the reach of younger people,” Sir Hilary said.
“Without higher education and the capacity to research and so on, we will have no innovation.”
He suggested that young people in the region should be “standing up to government policies” that did not address their needs.
The educator recalled that the former president of the UWI Cave Hill Campus Guild of Students Damani Parris, who was vocal and firm in his advocacy for change to Government’s education policy for tertiary students, was “vilified”.
“I felt sorry for him because I had to call him to my office and counsel him,” Sir Hilary disclosed.
Citing examples in Nigeria, Brazil and the Black Lives Matter movement, Sir Hilary said young people in other parts of the world were taking the lead against corruption and demanding change and transformation within their societies.
He lamented that was not the case in the Caribbean.
“There is no movement of youth political engagement that can be identified with clear and specific objectives for change and transformation. This has to concern all of us,” he said.
Sir Hilary recommended that regional governments should adopt Trinidad’s recently announced tertiary education policy of government assistance for households below a specified income, while those who could afford to pay for their education would do so.
Friday’s launch of the UWI Youth Development Programme (YDP) coincided with International Youth Day celebrated under the theme, The Road to 20130: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production.